Online exclusive: Danny Walkinshaw speaks to Aviva's UK general insurance CEO just six weeks in to the job

So, David, you’re more than six weeks in to the job now, how’s it going?

It’s been a phenomenally interesting first 45 days – lots of variety – we’ve had the snow to deal with for a start. The corporate risks business has got off to a flying start. But in general the broker market is quite tough at the moment, all the commercial companies are struggling with the recession and that’s going to create a ripple affect in to our business.

How has the broker market taken to you so far?

It is early days. I’m still in the process of getting out and meeting a whole load of brokers – I’ve been up in Manchester and Birmingham – and I have a number of meetings with the bigger brokers to come. It’s still early days, I don’t know if they have formed a view yet.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

I think it’s the constant balance when you’re doing a senior job of trying to chart the course for the medium to long term whilst at the same time dealing with the things that are thrown up in the short term, the highly pressing issues.

Like what?

Like the stuff going through on PPI at the moment. It’s quite a big challenge how that impacts the business. There’s a lot of regulatory activity at the moment around the threat of mis-selling on PPI, mainly aimed at banks and mortgage providers. But we are a participant in the market and we are trying to help the FSA and ABI think through some of the issues - we have been quite heavily involved in that.

How would you describe your management style?

Pretty open. Being Scottish I’m not that political, I normally tell it the way I see it. Direct, ambitious – I normally set quite challenging targets for my teams. I like teams that get on and work well together, I don’t like corporate politics at all.

What were your feelings about landing the top job?

It’s a fantastic job, it’s the number one position in UK general insurance. It’s a business I’ve worked in for the last seven or eight years so I know it really well, and I know a lot of the people and issues. So I was absolutely made up when I was offered the role. My background is I have spent most of my career in business to business selling; I’m also a qualified accountant. I think Aviva viewed me as well rounded for the role. With acception to the broker part of the business, I’ve pretty much been in every other part of the business in the last seven or eight years.

Have you managed to put your own stamp on the business or will it take time?

A bit of both really. I’ve been on the executive of the general insurance business for last four or five years so I’ve been part of the evolution of strategy. I see a lot of the things we’ve done in last couple of years continuing but like any new management team we will take a fresh look at things. One of the interesting things about the UKGI market is it never stays still. It’s very dynamic. There will be a lot of continuity in terms of the GI strategy and things that we will want to look at afresh.

Will brokers notice a difference in your approach, compared to that of your predecessor, Igal Mayer?

The things that will stay the same are our commitment to broker relationships. They are really important to us as the market leader. I believe in a very strong independent broker sector – that’s healthy for the market and healthy for end customers. So we’ll continue to support that through Club 110 and BIG. I’m essentially a broad based businessman at heart so I will try to do deals that make sense and don’t defy gravity. That will certainly be the intent. In terms of style I spent most of the latter half of my career in business to business relationships. I like getting out there and finding out what makes people tick. I’m pretty gregarious being a Scotsman. I like going out for a beer with people, going out for meals, watching sport, relationships are pretty key for me.

Click here for part two.