RSA group chief executive Andy Haste will step down at the end of this year after eight years leading the insurer.

He will be replaced by Simon Lee, currently chief executive of RSA’s international business.

“It has been a hard decision to leave but now is the right time for me to hand over the reins and in Simon I am delighted that we have a very able successor who will continue to drive the business forward,” Haste said in a statement.

Haste’s departure was announced at the same time as RSA’s first half results for 2011.

RSA credited Haste with turning the insurer around and “delivering superior shareholder returns”. Haste took the reins of the company in April 2003 from Bob Gunn, who was named interim CEO following the departure of previous long-term chief executive Bob Mendelsohn.

Lee joined RSA in 2003 and was appointed to the board in 2007.

“I am ready to take up the challenge and continue our track record of delivering profitable growth and superior shareholder returns,” Lee said.

RSA chairman John Napier added: “Simon has driven the growth and increased profitability of our International business and in the unanimous view of the board has more than demonstrated the necessary leadership skills and capabilities to ensure that we continue to develop and grow the profitability of the company.”