Haste to quit Royal & Sun Alliance after eight years

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Royal & Sun Alliance chief executive Andy Haste plans to step down after an eventful eight years in charge of an insurer that he brought back from the brink.

Mr Haste will be succeeded by Simon Lee, head of RSA's international business, at an unspecified time later this year. As such the insurer has avoided the sort of messy succession process that has badly damaged other financial companies.

Mr Haste joined the company in 2003 from the French insurer Axa and rejuvenated a business that was at a low ebb. Few analysts expected it to survive long as an independent company. RSA admitted that it was a "sprawling failing composite insurer" when he joined, with a market value of barely £1bn. Mr Haste, it said, had created a "focused general insurer" worth £4.6bn.

Mr Haste's disposals have earned him as much credit as hisacquisitions, notably the loss-making US business, which was a millstone around the group's neck and was finally jettisoned in 2006 after a lengthy process.

Mr Haste, 49, said he "hasn't made any plans" for the future but pledged: "I will be back. Whether it's in a public company or a private company I don't know. But I'm enthusiastic, I'm passionate about business, and people who know me will tell you I'm a hands-on sort of person."