UK GI boss Rob Townend and MD of intermediaries Phil Bayles told Insurance Times about how brokers were at the heart of a strong 2018 performance, and gave their views on what Maurice Tulloch’s appointment meant for the division this year

Brokers were the driving force behind the growth seen in Aviva’s UK General Insurance business in 2018.

This is according to the insurer’s managing director of intermediaries Phil Bayles.

Phil Bayles Aviva

Phil Bayles

While personal lines overall saw a slight drop in premium to £2.49bn (2017: £2.50bn), with a worsened COR of 92.4% (2017: 92.0%), he told Insurance Times that every line of business with brokers grew last year.

In commercial lines, there was 8% growth from £1.58bn in 2017 to £1.70bn. The commercial COR improved to 96.1% (2017: 96.7%).

“Often people see a trade off between growth and profitability, but we have broken that trade off, are growing at a decent rate and improving our profitability at the same time,” said Bayles.

“It’s quite a trick to pull off, but we’ve done it and it looks very sustainable to us as well. It’s a real stand out result from a broker perspective.”

Commercial non-motor

The performance was lead by the strength of commercial non-motor, which grew 10% to £1.17bn (2017: £1.06bn). Bayles highlighted both regional brokers in SME and international brokers in global corporate as being key to this growth.

UK General Insurance boss Rob Townend told Insurance Times the personal lines market had been tough in 2018, and that the business had to show disciplined underwriting. But he was particularly satisfied by the performance in SME and mid-market – two areas where Aviva hasn’t historically been as strong.

“It’s really pleasing to see SME and mid-market growing because it’s something that has eluded us in past years,” Townend said.

“We’re using a lot more data analytics in the commercial space. We’ve got (etrade platform) FastTrade, but we are also digitising a lot more of the lower end of the SME business in terms of automated renewals.

“That allows the underwriters to focus even more on where we want to grow in the mid-market.

“We’re automating some of the easier stuff and then moving the capability up in our underwriting teams.

“We’re doing that both organically with the existing teams and then we’ve brought in some good hires like Dave Carey.”

The performance of broker-based business meant overall net written premiums grew by 3% to £4.19bn (2017: £4.08bn), with a steady COR of 93.8% (2017: 93.9%). Operating profit grew 1% to £415m (2017: £411m).


Off the back of the performance, and that of past years, Townend said he didn’t expect new Aviva chief executive, former UK GI head Maurice Tulloch, to make any radical changes to the division.

But after Tulloch told the press yesterday that he was planning to take quick action to remove duplication in Aviva and make the business less complex, Townend revealed he too was focussed on this aim.

“My focus is to continue to drive more efficiencies between us and the brokers,” Townend said. “It’s really important in things like personal lines and its emerging in commercial lines.

Rob Townend, Aviva

Rob Townend

“We can’t afford to duplicate teams and costs between us and the brokers. Technology improvement is really important to us.

“It’s a slightly different lens to how I’ll look at it compared to Maurice, but Phil and I are constantly having conversations about how do we make the end to end process between the underwriting business and the brokers more efficient.”

Bayles said it wasn’t helpful to compare Tulloch to predecessor Mark Wilson, but added that the appointment “gives us confidence that the underlying strategy around UK General Insurance isn’t going to change”.

Bayles added: “One of the nice things about running a successful business is people want you to do more of it and they’ll carry on investing in it.

“The message that we’re getting from the business is keep doing what you’re doing, keep growing, and you’re on the right track.”