‘Enough is enough’, says sales and marketing director after a busy year rebranding insurer

Aviva’s head of sales and marketing John Kitson surprised the market this week, announcing plans to leave the UK’s biggest insurer in March next year.

Kitson, a key broker-facing figure at Aviva, insisted that he had made the decision for personal reasons, and that he would not take up another corporate role. He said he planned to “to have a rest, go fishing, write a book, go to Norwich City FC away games, and take stock”.

He acknowledged that it had been a busy year as he had overseen Norwich Union’s rebrand to Aviva as well as its controversial hard line on consolidators. He insisted that his decision to leave was “very personal”, however.

“Work-life balance is incredibly important to me,” he said. “I’ve overstepped the mark in the past 18 months and I am in the fortunate position to be able to say enough is enough.”

Kitson will remain in his role for the next six months, as will his second-in-command, corporate sales director Janice Deakin. Her role will cease in March 2010, and she will take on a new position with the insurer.

Kitson would not be drawn on what that might be, but said he was convinced she would continue to play a central role at Aviva.

Aviva’s general insurance chief executive, Igal Mayer, said: “I thank John for bringing so much to Aviva over the past 14 years, from driving the early growth of Norwich Union Direct to his recent prominent role in our rebrand. We will miss him. On behalf of the entire Aviva team, as well as our brokers and partners, I wish him all the best in whatever his future holds.

“Alongside the news about John, we’ve been planning changes to our sales and marketing team, not just for the next six months while John very much remains our sales and marketing director, but for the long-term future.”

Industry views

Andy Homer, group chief executive, Towergate

“John will be a massive loss. Aviva is still a crucial relationship for Towergate, but as the proverb puts it ‘The dogs bark but the caravan moves on’.”

Steve Burrows, chief executive, Cobra

“He has done a lot for Aviva and will be a loss because people feel that they can align themselves to him. This could be the start of a new era.”

Alex Alway, group chief executive, Jelf Group

“We are saddened. John has been a good friend of the broking community. Aviva has a reasonably big team so it will be interesting to see what happens next.”

Grant Ellis, chief executive, Broker Network

“We have a lot of time for John and are sad to see him leave Aviva. He brought a different dimension to the sector and will be a difficult guy to replace.”