The insurer's turnaround has put it in acquirers' sights

Happy birthday to Mark Hodges and co! What a year it must have been. Talk about a turnaround job – when Igal Mayer left these shores 12 months ago, certain broker bosses were so happy they were literally whooping with joy. Now, Aviva is back at the top of the Christmas card list, with brokers large and small reluctant to say a word against them.

This might be because they are being so helpfully ‘flexible’ on rates. Whereas Mayer wanted to lead the market on price – and took a £1bn hit in the process – the new management team see its first responsibility as rebuilding its book. And if that means offering hefty discounts to win back business they view as rightfully theirs, then so be it.

And it’s not just in the heartland of SME that Aviva’s playing aggressively – corporate risks, intermediated personal lines … you name it, they’re there.

So it must have come as an unpleasant birthday surprise to find themselves once again in the headlines for the wrong reasons, with this week’s revelation that Resolution, Allianz and Zurich had joined RSA in running the rule over the business. Rivals may be hoping to pick Aviva up cheap after a tough couple of years and while most insurance stocks are trading at relatively low prices. Hodges can take cold comfort in the fact that by securing the UK GI business’s success, he has helped make Aviva the attractive takeover target it is today.

But why throw that all away? The management team is determined to keep the insurer intact. With rumours of changes at the very top in 2011, and a year of success under its belt, it is in an excellent position to do so. IT