With no one yet to claim Andrew Moss’s seat as chief executive, chairman John McFarlane is wasting no time in making the big decisions

The long-awaited shake-up of Aviva has gathered pace this week with the news that the insurer could close or sell up to 15 divisions of its business.

With interim executive chairman John McFarlane taking up the post full-time, the company due to announce a strategy update this week, and the chief executive’s job still up for grabs, all eyes will be on Aviva’s next move.

But it would take a bold man to step into the breach following the departure of the under-fire Andrew Moss.

Moss’s track record has divided opinion – on the one hand, angering shareholders as profits and the share price dropped and directors continued to line their pockets, at the same time as managing to raise capital through the sale of RAC and the company’s stake in Dutch insurer Delta Lloyd.

Among the mooted successors are internal frontrunner and chief financial officer Pat Regan. Ageas UK boss Barry Smith is unlikely, given his company’s possible flotation, and former Aviva UK chief executive Patrick Snowball has ruled himself out.

Former RSA chief executive Andy Haste would also want to implement his own strategy and not be dictated to, while Towergate Mark Hodges continues to be linked to the job.

Drastic measures

It is Aviva’s UK general insurance strategy that has raised the most concern in the market, however, with no clearly defined plan albeit a number of regional changes in the pipeline, and only last month the company split from Broker Network.

Meanwhile, McFarlane has very much assumed charge, and among his possible targets are the sale of the firm’s US business, which is said to be worth £1bn, and the sale of further shares in Delta Lloyd.

Reports say that McFarlane has already taken some drastic measures, stripping out four layers of management from the firm’s London headquarters and splitting its operations into more than 50 units, ranked as core, in need of improvement or sale.

He has also reportedly waived any increase in the chairman’s remuneration package, despite taking on executive duties since Moss’s departure, because of the shareholder rebellion in which 59% refused to back Aviva’s remuneration package.

Chairman “disaster”

One figure shareholders won’t be sad to see the back of is Lord Sharman of Redlynch, who retired as chairman and director this week.

One source said: “Someone once likened Andrew Moss and Lord Sharman to Laurel and Hardy.

“Stan Laurel has gone – thank God Oliver Hardy has gone as well, because he was a disaster for Aviva.”