Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) has confirmed that UK chief executive Paul Spencer has left the company. He will be replaced by commercial division managing director Duncan Boyle.

It is understood Spencer decided to leave the company following the appointment of Bob Gunn as group chief operating officer earlier this year. Sources close to Spencer said that he was upset because Gunn was given half of Spencer's responsibilities.

Spencer relinquished his post, which he had held since October 1998, to "pursue an alternative career outside the group" according to R&SA. He will officially leave the company on 31 March. The news was broken on, a day ahead of the stock market announcement.

The company said Boyle has already taken on Spencer's duties as chief executive. Boyle came to prominence while working as managing director of R&SA Australia. He introduced the country's first direct motor insurance operation, which offered good drivers a no claims bonus for life. This was the forerunner and template for R&SA's new More Th>n division.

A source said this was the reason he was promoted. "Duncan made the motor book a massive success in Australia. R&SA is hoping he can turn round the rest of the business into profit."

Spencer decided to "fall on his sword", the source said, after major City investors forced the board of directors to "seek a scapegoat" for the group's continuing failure to sell its life and pensions portfolio. Spencer had joined R&SA in 1996 as group finance director.

Group chief executive Bob Mendelsohn said: "Spencer has made a significant contribution to the group and to our UK company."

R&SA's share price dropped last Thursday on the announcement, falling from 297p to 291p, but as Insurance Times went to press, it had risen to 298.5p.

Boyle will be replaced by Peter Webster, at present managing director, Latin America and Caribbean.