Aviva will feel the loss of its broker-facing guru

Aviva’s announcement that John Kitson is to depart in March next year marks the end of an era. Kitson had established himself as the insurer’s mouthpiece to brokers, and played a key role in one of the most high-profile corporate rebrands in a generation.

Aside from losing one of the market’s livelier characters, Aviva will lose an individual with a great wealth of personal contacts and goodwill from within the broking market, as well as someone with a thorough understanding of the transaction and all the techniques, troubles and trials that comes with negotiation.

Over the past 12 months in particular, Kitson has quietly helped implement a broader strategy to scale back Aviva from cumbersome deals with consolidators, as well as simultaneously parking the Aviva tank on the lawns of independent brokers. You can only imagine that it has not been the easiest of rides, especially considering the extent of the ingrained commission deals inherited and subsequently identified as unsustainable by Igal Mayer, Aviva’s chief executive.

But life will go on. Two years in, Mayer will appreciate that he still needs local broker market knowledge and expertise to sit alongside him in the same way that Philippe Maso has developed a network at AXA. Mayer will need a strong character to help execute and communicate strategy to Aviva’s core SME broker market, but also someone who can facilitate and shape dialogue with the larger and, shall we say, more aggressive top 50 broker personalities.

Aviva is an enormous organisation and Mayer may choose to restructure to create a new broker-facing guru through the selection of one of the very able regional trading directors. But he may yet choose to share the responsibility load and ultimately the risk, or even go outside. But do brokers really want that?

Should she have the appetite for the job, the solution could be a lot closer to home for Mayer in John Kitson’s number two, Janice Deakin. As corporate sales director, Deakin has taken a front-row seat throughout the various changes. She has the insight, understanding and, importantly, the respect of the broking market too, and has been doing deals her whole career. It could make the difference.

Kitson, meanwhile, has pledged to spend more time fishing, which we can believe, and to not pop up at a rival at a later date, which we can’t. Either way, you can’t help but think we haven’t seen the last of John Kitson in this market yet. IT