Aviva yet to announce who will join new UK head Mark Hodges, as Mayer heads to the US

New Aviva boss Mark Hodges is a good bloke, apparently. And that’s not to say that Igal Mayer is not. It’s just that, on any measure, Mayer hasn’t really had a very happy two years at the helm of the UK’s largest insurer.

Talk to a rival boss and they’ll tell you that Mayer’s strategy wasn’t clear or coherent and, as a result, was executed poorly. Talk to a consolidator boss and they’ll tell you that he didn’t really do his sums properly, as, come results day, the premium deficit spoke for itself. Talk to your average broker and they’ll likely ask, “Igal who?”

And then talk to John Kitson and, well, let’s not go there right now. But it makes you wonder whether the news will cause him to reflect upon his decision to leave. After all, Hodges has a big brief and he’s going to need some help to do it. He needs to rebuild the relationships, replenish the book, keep commissions sustainable and build upon the momentum among regional brokers to keep the culture entrepreneurial.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists argue that Mayer was a kamikaze pilot deployed by group chief executive Andrew Moss on a two-year mission to wreak havoc, unclog unsustainable commissions and then bail out abroad in time for a new man to come in, mop up and grow the proposition all over again. A line in the sand if you will.

But the realists argue that Aviva was always prepared to take a hit on premium, but just not as much as it did, and that the strategy and tactics went wrong. The combination of the poor economy, personality clashes, coupled along with strong-arming by a dark, powerful few, prevented it from happening the way the firm wanted it to.

And that’s where it all becomes a bit clichéd I’m afraid: where it is pointed out that the market is all about relationships, managing books and doing deals together, and allowing everybody in the negotiation an ability to save face and make a suitable return. Perhaps that’s the bit that has been missing: that high-level, inner circle mentality. Igal Mayer was never going to be able to change the market on his own; he needed partners. Mark Hodges knows the general insurance market, has some goodwill and so it’ll be interesting to see who he aligns himself to and, more importantly, how. IT