Blog: What will Maurice Tulloch's legacy as Aviva UK GI CEO be?

Maurice Tulloch

The news that Maurice Tulloch is to step down from his post as CEO of Aviva’s UK general insurance business should not have come as much surprise.

At just over two years in the role, he has easily served his time based on the tenures of the previous incumbents who all - on average - had shorter stints.

When his predecessor Robin Spencer departed I wrote a blog painting him as a "fall guy". Someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and thus carried the blame for some of the bad news that had impacted the business over the previous 12 months.

So what will Tulloch's legacy be?

1) Repositioned Aviva as a broker favourite

Given that the last CEO of Aviva Canada to take the UK role - Igal Mayer - very much divided the broking community with his verbose approach, there might have been some understandable trepidation with Tulloch, given he was seen as one of Igal's star pupils.

Ben Cohen, analyst at Canaccord Genuity, told Post at the time: "It will be interesting to see how [Tulloch] deals with moving to what is a very different market environment in the UK.

"Others that have moved have not found it an easy to transition. You had Igal Mayer who made the move and that ultimately didn't end well."

They needn't have worried. Within weeks Tulloch was making all the right noises, and 12 months on the firm was reaping the rewards.

Brokerbility chairman Ashwin Mistry for one described Tulloch as "an absolute breath of fresh air", adding: "He's dynamic, broker focussed, and really wants to do business. It's a very positive move as far as we're concerned, especially after the three or four changes Aviva had prior to that."

Tulloch opened his tenure as CEO with the gambit: "I have spent the best part of 22 years engaging brokers to ensure that they win and we win." And he seems to have built a positive connection with the market.

2) Restored Aviva as a major contributor to THE debate

Tulloch has held a range of senior industry wide positions during his time at Aviva, including Flood Re and Climate Wise.

He headed up the Association of British Insurer general council too - which might not be surprising given the size of Aviva and noises about firms looking to follow Legal & General out of the organisation.

In the past Aviva has been at the forefront of the industry campaigning efforts, and any fears that this was starting to diminish, would have been allayed by Tulloch's efforts, especially around compensation culture.

Tulloch was also not afraid to take a contrary position to some of his rivals, especially when it came to discussing industry-backed funding for flood defenses. But he will mostly be remembered as an "industry" man, who was happy to push both his firm's and the market's agenda, to their mutual benefit.

3) Made Aviva an employer of choice again

Tulloch's predecessor Spencer had some bad luck when it came to his team losing high profile figures such as intermediary and partnerships director Janice Deakin and UK general insurance claims director Dominic Clayden.

On taking the UK role, Tulloch boosted Aviva needed to attract the crème de la crème, and it is interesting how he looked outside Aviva to fill roles such as claims director with David Lovely (Ace) and chief operating officer (now personal lines boss) Lindsey Rix (Santander).

He also helped entice Adam Kornick from US giant Progressive to take on an analytics role, commenting: "The UK has one of the most competitive insurance markets in the world and the use of big data and analytics will help us better utilise the data we already gather to continue improving the service and products we offer our customers."

True, personal lines managing director Steve Treloar headed to run LV's general insurance business during his tenure, but Tulloch seems to have made Aviva an employer of choice again.

4) Taken major steps to future proof the business

Speaking of analytics, under Tulloch Aviva's general insurance business looks to have made real strides in embracing the digital agenda.

Some of this is ultimately as a consequence of group investment, especially in its innovation hub - AKA The Garage - in Shoreditch - but he has made all the right noises: "I am not here to guide this great company; I'm here to change it, I'm here to move it forward.

"I'm here to recognise that disruption is real, and failure to react will probably not be consistent with the value of creating legacy."

The operation housed in the Garage - Aviva Ventures - made its first investment in Cocoon in Q4 2015, a new business which has invented a next generation smart home security device while Tulloch was in charge, so let's give him the benefit of the deflected glory.

5) Improving results

Here again there could be a long discussion about who started the upturn in results, but the improved COR - the lowest in eight years - at Aviva has been noteworthy.

As has Tulloch's dedication to automating claims, fighting fraud - especially with noise induced hearing loss and whiplash - which has all helped improve the expense ratio.

The big question now is whether the business is ready to go into growth mode, having seen the green shoots of an uptick in gross written premium last year. But that will likely be someone else's legacy.

Which leads us to the million dollar question: Who next?

Aviva has previously recruited in house for the last six people to take the top UK general insurance role.

And interestingly, none have come from roles such as personal lines or commercial lines MD, which on the surface might discount Angus Eaton and Rix respectively. But the fact they have also held the chief risk officer and chief operating officer positions before means they cannot be discounted.

Tulloch, like Igal Mayer (2007-2009) came from Canada, but both had finance backgrounds, as did Mark Hodges (2005 - 2006).

Simon Machell (2006-2007) ran RAC before taking the top UK job and had a customer services, finance and claims background; whilst David McMillan (2010 - 2012) was COO, and had worked in customer operations and partnership previously.

Spencer (2012 - 2013) was Aviva's chief risk officer before taking the UK hot seat, but had also previously been chief executive officer, Aviva Canada.
A wide array of role, but a list that indicate overseas experience and a finance background helps.

So if Aviva was to look outside it would be interesting if someone like Richard Hoskins, the chief financial officer of Hasting, would appeal, given that he has a finance background, worked for Aviva between 2009 and 2012 in North America and has other international experience in Australia.

Otherwise, Aviva might just rip up the past and pick any one of the well qualified insurance executives currently employed in the market. And it should not be forgotten that former Aviva executive Patrick Snowball is at a loose end presently.

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