Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) is expected to announce its new group chief executive before Christmas; rumour has it that the shortlist is down to two candidates.

Sources close to the insurer say Prudential's Mark Wood was interviewed for the job, but was unimpressed when he saw the insurer's books.

Meanwhile, other sources allege that Wood is busy lobbying Abbey National to support his bid to buy R&SA, which would be run as a separate entity to both the Pru and Abbey. With pundits claiming the the Pru and Abbey National are set to launch a joint life product, stranger things have happened.