As Middle exits for Aviva, Meehan, Reid and Keating prove Maso's management strategy is sound

Ant Middle was Philippe Maso’s plan A. His departure from AXA to Aviva this week, as revealed first on, is a blow to the French insurer. Middle is a member of an experienced rare breed of broker-facing leaders whom insurers have learnt to rely upon. The key to the role is the ability to combine relationship management, social skills and lead generation in a soft market with the underwriting discipline for when it turns. Ant Middle possessed the ability to combine operational excellence with strategic thinking.

Maso has made it clear that he is going to take his time to find a replacement, as well as take a more hands-on role in the commercial lines space himself in the short term. In the meantime, he has the wily trio of Paul Meehan, Stuart Reid and Mike Keating all sat within the empire. Cut either way, each could act as a perfect plan B until a long-term solution can be found. And, on the face of it, Maso will be pleased his risk mitigation tactics for key personnel has paid off. But, more interestingly, which way he ultimately jumps with this crucial appointment may also reveal a fair bit more about AXA’s plans over the next 12 months as the market continues to examine its distribution strategy more closely now than ever before.

Anything goes (up) in a coalition

As David Cameron unveils his plans to consult the public on the government’s austerity measures, the Treasury is quietly looking at urgent revenue generation plans. When the previous regime attempted to widen the scope of insurance premium tax a few months ago, the insurance community sent a defiant message of outrage at the lack of consultation on the proposals. But now we understand the Treasury is considering increasing it as part of the emergency Budget.

The UK has the third-lowest ITP in Europe and, although any increase will be seen as politically neutral, insurers will no doubt point out the cost of compliance to their businesses, as well as the pass-on costs in premiums to policyholders. One major problem with a coalition government is that party manifestos are suddenly not worth the chip paper they’re written on. Watch this space … IT