The Player: John Finan, Chief Executive of Winterthur Life UK: After an unfair share of the market

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The Independent Online
PERSONAL DETAILS: Age 60. Lives in Berkshire. Drives Jaguar XK8. Pay in 1997, excluding pension contributions, pounds 253,000. Likes golf and boating.

CHALLENGE: Winterthur Life UK has grown by 700 per cent in the past seven years but expenses have risen by just 6.5 per cent. The challenge is to maintain that momentum and to get our unfair share of the market; ours and somebody else's, says Mr Finan.

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Joined Pearl Assurance as an agent in 1959. Rose within the company to the level of main board director. In 1988, he left to become chief executive and deputy chairman of NEL Britannia, the insurance arm of Invesco MIM, formerly Britannia Arrow. In 1992, Mr Finan was made managing director of Provident Life, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Winterthur Swiss Insurance with assets of pounds 30bn. In 1995, after over 100 years as Provident Life, the firm formally adopted the name of its parent company, Winterthur Life UK. Winterthur Group merged with Credit Suisse Group in 1997.

STRATEGY: To grow Winterthur's three divisions. Winterthur is the UK market leader for self-invested personal pensions with around 50 per cent market share. Mr Finan says that the challenge is to consolidate and maintain leadership in this market. There has been rapid growth in the group pensions products business. Mr Finan sees scope for further substantial growth. Winterthur serves the largest number of independently owned tied estate agents. It has 10-year deals with most of its 1,000 branches. These include the Haart estate agency chain, formerly Woolwich Property Services. The strength of the housing market is seen as "a tremendous opportunity" for the business. Mr Finan says 44 per cent of owners could switch their mortgage and get a better deal. Winterthur has set up a free personal financial services call centre offering remortgage terms within 15 minutes. Mr Finan wants to expand into areas such as Individual Savings Accounts and personal loans. Mr Finan says the group is looking at flexible staff benefits and hours.

PLANS: Winterthur Life is one of the fastest-growing insurance companies in the UK, with a 29 per cent return on capital and after-tax profits of pounds 4m in 1997. Mr Finan is working with European colleagues on group and individual pensions and the group is on the lookout for mergers and acquisitions in the life and pensions sector.