The director also highlights opportunities employees have at the insurer

Aviva’s director for UK mid-market, schemes and regional specialty Michael Yabantu has revealed the insurer has strong depth and capability following a series of leaderships swaps at the firm.

In December 2022, Insurance Times editor Katie Scott highlighted in a briefing that the company had to contend with some high-profile senior staff departures in recent years.

For example, Colm Holmes left his role as chief executive of UK general insurance in May 2021 to head up Allianz Holdings, while Nick Major confirmed he would be leaving the position of commercial lines managing director after a five-year tenure in August 2022.

Key figures well known to the broker community – such as ex-chief distribution officer Phil Bayles and his successor Gareth Hemming – have also left.

Yabantu, who joined the firm in 2018, told Insurance Times that Aviva was a “big organisation” and that the firm was ”always sad to see people go”.

“Equally, we are always excited when new people join,” he said.


One high profile hire Aviva recently made was Zurich’s former head of retail David Martin, who joined the firm as managing director for UKGI distribution and SME earlier this year.

Working alongside Martin is Ryan Birbeck, Aviva’s distribution director for regional brokers, and Yabantu.

Yabantu joined Aviva as head of trading for the north, before moving up the ladder to development director.

In October 2022, he was further promoted to director for UK mid-market, schemes and regional specialty.

Yabantu said he had been “very fortunate to [experience] a variety of opportunities within Aviva”.

He explained that he did not have a “structured mentor” during his time at Aviva, although said that “if you ask, everybody’s really happy to help”.

“The strength of the depth [and] capability we have is one of the real success factors and the thing that underpins the business – it’s not about one individual person,” Yabantu said.

“For me, personally, I’ve had some amazing support and opportunities to do different things, get involved in different activities, pursue things that I’m passionate about [and] opportunities to develop skills that perhaps I’m less strong at.”

Evolution Council

One opportunity that Yabantu snapped up was joining Aviva’s Evolution Council in August 2021.

He explained the council meets every two months and works as a “shadow board” to provide a platform for people to share fresh perspectives on the firm’s strategy and culture.

As part of this, attendees get a chance to hear from group chief executive Amanda Blanc and other c-suite employees.

”[There is] a real diverse range of upcoming talent and senior leaders in our organisation,” he said.

“That’s fantastic.”