The Business On... John McFarlane, chairman-designate, Aviva


The insurer that used to be called Norwich Union?

That's the one. Mr McFarlane, it was announced yesterday, will join Aviva's board as a non-executive director in September, become deputy chairman in January and then succeed the current chairman, Lord Sharman, next July.



So Aviva is planning ahead?

As it should be – ensuring succession at the top goes smoothly is crucial to avoid disruption at a big company such as Aviva. Actually, this recruitment exercise has been going on for some time and Mr McFarlane wasn't even the first choice. Aviva had wanted Sir Richard Broadbent, but he's agreed to chair Tesco instead.



Is it settling for second best?

Don't worry, Mr McFarlane comes with impeccable credentials. He spent more than 20 years working in senior positions at Citigroup and Standard Chartered, but really made his name with a 10-year stint as chief executive of Australia and New Zealand Bank (ANZ). He's a non-executive director at Royal Bank of Scotland too, and at Westfield, the Australian shopping centres group.



Is he from down under?

He has dual British and Australian citizenship these days, but he's a Scotsman by birth – he's from Dumfries, in fact.



A Scottish banker, then?

One of the most distinguished, even if his appointment at RBS – after its rescue – raised a few eyebrows in the local banking community, many of whom weren't familiar with the way he had tripled the size of ANZ.



Any other strings to his bow?

Strings is the right word. Capital Radio once asked him to join its board after learning of his prowess on the guitar. He was a member of a Scottish rock band called Sekrets during the Sixties.



So Aviva is lucky to have him?

Yes, though not everyone may ultimately see it that way. There are already rumours that Mr McFarlane might seek to shake up the insurer's senior management, amid concerns in some parts of the City that its performance has not been up to scratch.

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