’I am confident that these appointments will strengthen our team,’ says managing director

Aviva has expanded its small and medium sized enterprise (SME) and distributions teams with three new hires from Zurich.

A statement released today (18 October 2023) said Donna Smith and Niamh Johnston will join Aviva in December this year, while Leigh Langton will move to the insurer in January 2024.

This came after Aviva refreshed its SME and distribution senior leadership team earlier this year (4 September 2023), with the insurer announcing that Rebecca Gambrell would take up the newly created role of portfolio director, with Sharon Boobyer promoted to chief operating officer for SME and distribution.

Aviva said it had made more leadership appointments to further strengthen its focus on “visibility, responsiveness and delivery for brokers and their customers”.

Dave Martin, managing director of UKGI distribution and SME trading, added: “I am confident that these appointments will strengthen our team, further boosting our overall effectiveness, performance and portfolio decision-making.”


Aviva said that Langton had been appointed head of strategic accounts management and will be responsible for leading a team of strategic account managers.

He has worked in the insurance industry for more than 20 years and previously worked as the head of regional market for the south east at Zurich.

Meanwhile, Smith will join Aviva as head of schemes and operations, taking responsibility for the oversight and management of the insurer’s schemes book and delegated underwriting authority arrangements across the SME business.

At her previous role at Zurich, she was head of retail underwriting performance and execution. 

And Johnston will join Aviva as head of change, systems and operational effectiveness – she was previously the national operational performance manager for retail at Zurich.

Aviva also revealed that Joanne Hastings, who has worked with the insurer for over 34 years, had been promoted to head of customer, assurance and capability for SME and distribution.

“These appointments reflect our strategy of ensuring we employ the very best people from a wide range of backgrounds, with the skills and experience to continue our growth in SME, while delivering exceptional broker and customer outcomes,” Martin said.

“I’m also delighted to promote Jo to her new role. Jo joins more than 60 people in our SME team who have been promoted this year, which is a powerful testament to Aviva being a great place to work and build a career.”


Meanwhile, Aviva also revealed that Michelle Taylor will start ahead of schedule.

She was meant to join in January 2024 as the strategic accounts director, but this has been brought forward to 5 December 2023.

Taylor will join from Zurich, where she was most recently UK head of retail sales and distribution.