Wilson gets top job as Aviva ends its search for a new boss

Aviva has ended months of speculation by appointing Mark Wilson as its new chief executive.

The insurer said the former AIA boss will join the company on 1 January, when its executive chairman John McFarlane will revert to being Aviva's chairman.

The decision is a blow to the group's highly rated finance director Pat Regan, who was in the running for the job. Industry insiders believe he is now likely to be handed an enlarged role at the company or leave for a rival over the next few months.

Aviva has been in the market for a new chief executive since May when Andrew Moss was forced to quit after an embarrassing shareholder revolt at the group's annual meeting.

Investors were critical of Mr Moss' stewardship of the company in the months leading up the vote, where 58 per cent of shareholders failed to back the group's executive pay.

Mr McFarlane said: "Mark has operated in both developed and emerging markets. At AIA, he faced similar challenges to Aviva today.

"He navigated the company through the global financial crisis, narrowed the focus of the company, sold non-core businesses, turned round non-performing segments, and reduced risks and costs.

"From that foundation he implemented a successful revenue growth strategy," he added.

Mr Wilson has been handed an annual pay package of up to £5.4m, but no "golden hello" like those given to other recent recruits at the company.

The 46-year-old Kiwi, who has 25 years of experience in the sector, will now execute a strategy outlined by Mr McFarlane and Mr Regan in June. This includes selling or winding-down 16 of its 58 businesses such as its US arm, which is expected to be sold to Guggenheim Partners in coming weeks.

The appointment was welcomed by analysts.

"Mark Wilson's hire represents another step in the Aviva transformation story," analysts at Berenberg wrote.

"He has significant experience of the disposal of non-core operations and turning around non-performing operations, and as such represents a strong fit versus Aviva's current requirements."

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