My ambitions for Aviva are BIG. With the right strategic focus, a commitment to high performance and unwavering financial discipline, we will become the UK's leading insurer. Our investors, customers and people expect action, progress and improvement. And we are going to give it to them.
Amanda Blanc is the Group CEO of Aviva, the UK’s leading insurance, wealth and retirement business.
Amanda was born and bred in Wales, having grown up in the Rhondda Valley, and many of her family still live there.
She started her career as a graduate at one of Aviva’s ancestor companies, Commercial Union. Following success in senior executive roles across the insurance industry, she came back to Aviva as CEO in July 2020.
Priorities at Aviva
Amanda has greatly simplified Aviva, successfully divesting eight non-core businesses. Aviva is now focused on our core markets in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Amanda has also overseen a significant strengthening of Aviva’s financial position.
Amanda is now focused on accelerating Aviva’s performance: capitalising on the structural growth opportunities in our core markets; providing customers with a simpler, more personalised offering; transforming our cost base and delivering our market-leading sustainability commitments. Aviva is the first major insurer in the world to target becoming net zero by 2040.
Watch Amanda's 2022 half year results video:
Read Amanda Blanc's 2022 half year results video transcript
Hi, Amanda. Thank you so much for having me here to talk about the results with you today.
How are you?
I'm good, thanks. Jenny, how are you?
I'm really well, thank you. So, are we making the progress that you'd hoped for at this stage of the year?
Well, yeah, I actually think that we are, Jenny. And that is largely due to the fantastic work that's done by you and all of your colleagues at Aviva. And I can't thank them enough for the hard work that they've put in in the first six months of this year.
So, I think if I reflect back over the period, we've made some really strong progress and there’s really good momentum in the business and I think you can see that in the growth, in insurance, the growth in the wealth business and the growth in the retirement business, which I think puts us in a really, really strong position.
We made some difficult decisions two years ago when we refocused the portfolio, but I think you're really starting to see the benefit of those decisions now coming through in the performance of the business.
And we're much better at managing the performance of the business as well. I think the performance culture in the business is really strong.
And so whilst I know we look out at a very difficult macro environment, Aviva is in a very, very good position to be able to work through that and I think we'll come out of that very strongly and I'm very confident about the outlook.
It'd be great to know what the half-year highlights are for you.
So, as I reflect on the first half, I think if we look at the sales performance of the business, that's strong. The operating profit of the business is also up and so that's a strong performance for us. And I put that down to the diversified nature of the business.
We are in a strong competitive position holding as we do number one positions in many of our product lines in the UK, Ireland and Canada.
And of course, the capital position of the business is strong. There are two things to talk about there.
Firstly, today we announced that the interim dividend is in line with the guidance that we gave back in March, and secondly, that we anticipate launching a share buyback with the full year results in March 2023.
And I think, Jenny, this shows the confidence that we have in the business.
So, you've talked about our four strategic priorities. Can you tell me a bit about how we're progressing in each of those?
Yes. So, let's talk about customer first.
So obviously, the customer's at the heart of what we do here at Aviva. We have over 18 and a half million customers across the UK, Ireland and Canada. That's a lot of customers to look after and we take that responsibility very seriously.
You will remember in February of this year there were three storms which happened very quickly in the UK, and we had 19,000 claims from those storms and obviously our customers really needed us at that point and we were there for them, and we were able to actually settle 10% of claims on the first day, which I think is real testament to our colleagues, but also a testament to One Aviva, because our Aviva Canada team were able to step in and help the UK team to make sure that we were able to do that. I was incredibly proud of that.
We've also made over 100 experience improvements to the MyAviva app and to Aviva Connect, which is the broker app. And we have over half a million new registrations on MyAviva in the last 12 months. So, people are engaging more with Aviva, which is obviously good. The reason that's important is if somebody is on and using the MyAviva app, then they're twice as likely to buy another Aviva product.
And the second priority area is growth and we've made great progress there also.
We've grown in insurance, we've grown in wealth and we've grown in retirement, as you can see from the results that we've published today.
So maybe just to sort of delve into a couple of those areas, because we can't just rely on our existing revenue streams, we have to look for new opportunities.
So, in commercial lines, we are expanding our regional underwriting footprint. We've made enhancements to our digital proposition. In Canada we've launched a multinational proposition for national businesses there. And in the wealth business, we've launched some new enhancements to the master trust proposition.
And last week I was really excited when we announced the Azur acquisition because that puts us as number one in the high-net-worth market in the UK.
That and the launch of Aviva Zero where we've now underwritten over 12,000 policies, I think these are all really good proof points which show that Aviva is growing in our traditional areas but also in new revenue areas.
So, our third priority area is efficiency and as you've seen today, our costs are down 2%. So that's really good news.
I think particularly when you look at this very high inflationary environment in which we're operating in, so any cost reduction is clearly going to be tough.
But the good news is that we are on target to meet the 750 million target that we set out in March this year.
We're reducing our IT platforms, simplifying them so that they're not as expensive. And we are also looking at our product set to simplify the number of products that we have. And of course, for us, top quartile efficiency remains our absolute priority across each of the business lines.
And the final area is, of course, around sustainability. And here we're making good progress. But in the last six months where we've really been focusing our attention is on the cost of living crisis. And I think there are three things that we should draw out here. Firstly, we've committed £15 million to support vulnerable businesses and vulnerable people in local communities as they struggle through what is, of course, an incredibly difficult time for them.
The second area is thinking about our customers and ensuring that we can provide them with affordable product propositions as they are making choices during this cost of living crisis.
And finally, our own colleagues, we made an announcement last week of a one-off payment to support 7,000 of our colleagues in this difficult time.
Thank you, Amanda. That's been some great insight.
What are the key messages that you'd like us to take away from today?
So, Jenny, I think to sum up, we would say we've had an excellent start to the year, but we are very conscious of how difficult it is out there. It's really tough.
But we are in a good position because we've got some leading franchises.
If you look at our position across the UK, Ireland and Canada we're in a strong position. And we have a formidable brand.
And the work that we did two years ago in setting the new strategy has put us in a great place to be able to capitalize on that.
So, we have a real confidence that we can deliver Aviva's promise.
So, I guess I just want to finish by saying thank you to all of our colleagues for all the hard work that they've put in for the last six months. I really, really appreciate that.
Thank you so much, Amanda. It's been brilliant talking through with you today.
And thank you. I've really enjoyed it.
Amanda was formerly Group CEO at AXA UK, PPP & Ireland and CEO Europe, Middle East, Africa & Global Banking at Zurich Insurance Group. She also held executive leadership positions at Towergate Insurance Brokers, Groupama Insurance Company and Commercial Union.
She has previously served as Chair of the Association of British Insurers, Chair of the Insurance Fraud Bureau and President of the Chartered Insurance Institute.
In 2022, Amanda was named Insurance Personality of the Year at the British Insurance Awards.
Qualifications and responsibilities
Amanda is an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute and has an MBA from Leeds University. She also holds a BA (hons) in history from the University of Liverpool.
In 2020 Amanda led the Government’s independent review into flood insurance.
In 2021, she was appointed by HM Treasury to the role of Women in Finance Charter Champion and has worked with Bain & Company to design an industry-first blueprint with practical recommendations that organisations can use to boost representation across Financial Services.
Amanda was also elected to join the Geneva Association Board, and she is a member of the UK Government’s Financial Services Trade Advisory Group.
In 2022, Amanda joined the Prime Minister’s Business Council, which brings together industry leaders to boost jobs and unlock investment, accelerate net zero ambitions, and promote Global Britain.
Amanda is also Co-Chair of the UK Transition Taskforce, which is developing a gold standard for private sector climate transition plans.
On 1 September 2022 Amanda joined the Board of BP plc, a company listed on the LSE, Frankfurt Stock Exchange and NYSE, as a Non-Executive Director.
You can download a photograph of Amanda from Flickr.
Amanda on CNBC - 2 March 2022
Amanda was interviewed on CNBC about our full year financial results.
Amanda Blanc, Group CEO Aviva
2 March 2022
This transcript is made using a blend of speech recognition software and human transcription and may contain errors. Please cross-reference with the audio before quoting anything contained below.
CNBC: We've got Aviva numbers coming through here, so let me just walk you through some of the highlights from these figures.
Excuse me, the Group giving us an operating profit line of £2.2 billion as against £3.16 billion for the 2020 period.
The Group says that largely reflects lower operating profit from discontinued operations.
The IFRS profit for the year, a little over £2 billion, for 2020 it was £2.9 billion.
The Group says continuing operations profit, rather operating profit from continuing operations, down 10% to £1.6 billion.
The strong performance in General Insurance offset by lower operating profit from the UK and Ireland Life.
The Group says we are going to, let's have a look, estimate the circa 40% increase in 2020 dividend per share to 31 spot 5 pence.
The Group targeting a total capital return of £4.75 billion sterling, which is ahead of the £4 billion that I believe was committed.
Dividends up, targets up, substantial capital return is the headline for Aviva.
Let's get to CEO Amanda Blanc for more on these numbers. Amanda, good morning to you here. Well that £4.75 billion is somewhat higher than you’d previously signalled. Why have you decided to raise the return?
Amanda Blanc: Morning Jeff. Really good to be with you this morning.
Well yes, I mean, we always said that we would return at least £4 billion, and you know the board has looked at our position over the over the last few months and we've got a very strong position. You can see from the results this morning. So we decided to return the £4.75 billion.
We sold eight businesses last year and for £7.5 billion and with the reduction in debt and the £4.75 billion return, we will have returned the money to shareholders that we said we would.
CNBC: To what extent were you prompted to do that by the criticism from Cevian that we know argued that £4 billion was too low?
Amanda Blanc: So we didn't see that as criticism. You know, it was a point of view and we listened to all of our investors, but actually we made the decision based upon our results, based upon the surplus capital within the business and based upon the strong operating momentum that you've seen in the results that we've delivered this morning.
CNBC: Can we talk a bit more then about operational expectations for full year 2022? What guidance are you giving the market here as to your new targets?
Amanda Blanc: Yeah, so basically, we've got three new targets this morning. One is an upgrade on our cost reduction target, where we're taking the cost reduction target to £750 million gross of inflation.
We're giving a new target on operating funds generated of £1.5 billion by 2024.
And we’re also upgrading our cash remittance target to greater than £5.4 billion by 2024 so I think it shows the confidence that we have in the business for growth and to continue the strong performance that we're already delivering.
CNBC: And can we talk about the lower operating profit from the UK and Ireland Life which you've flagged up in the numbers. What action is being taken to improve performance?
Amanda Blanc: Yeah, so look some of that was driven by market conditions so lower spreads drives a lower margin in the bulk purchase annuity business, and I think that's to be expected. And we're saying that that will continue as we go forward as the market normalizes.
But also there's less one-off actions, and so actually the underlying performance is pretty strong and the way that we look at the performance of the business is really around the cash remittances from the business, which are up 22% in 2021. So we see that as being a sort of really strong indicator of performance, particularly for an insurance company.
CNBC: Amanda, obviously you don't operate in a vacuum, so it'll be useful, I think, just to address some of the current threats to performance this year.
It does appear that central banks are rethinking the glide path for interest rates this year. Based on the potential shock we see from sanctions on the Russian financial system and higher oil prices, and generally higher risk of inflation, or possibly stagflation.
How are you trying to put that into your numbers as you think about what lower interest rates in the UK would mean this year for Aviva?
Amanda Blanc: Yes, so obviously we're always looking at the sensitivity to interest rates, and you know there's loads of detail on that in in our results today, but you know, generally, of course we've been operating in a low interest rate environment, so it's something that we're pretty familiar with.
You know, the issue around inflation is really more the impact on our customers, and what does that do to our customers? So we've seen very strong savings flows in 2020 and 2021, and you know, it's whether customers will need to make choices as we would expect them to around what they're going to spend their money on, so that potentially impacts our flows.
And obviously the P&L is impacted by higher supply costs and also higher wage inflation, and that's something that we are factoring into our numbers as we sit here today.
CNBC: Yeah, and obviously Aviva owns financial assets as part of the portfolios you run. I believe that exposure to Russia is negligible, but could you just give us a sense of the character of your exposure to that country and to the sanctions?
Amanda Blanc: Yeah, so we have some very, very minimal exposure to Russia through our Aviva Investors business. And you know, our plan will be to exit that as soon as we possibly can.
CNBC: Alright Amanda, it's been good catching up. Thank you so much for joining us and walking us through the numbers and best of luck with the coming period. Amanda Blanc, the CEO of Aviva.
Amanda Blanc: Thank you.
Amanda on Bloomberg - 19 October 2021
Amanda was live on Bloomberg discussing Aviva's involvement in COP26.
27 May 2022: read Amanda's interview with The Financial Times.
27 October 2021: read Amanda's comment on the budget in The Telegraph.
17 October 2021: read what Amanda has to say about Aviva’s increased investment in green assets and how we are using our influence to call for change and push for progress in the move to net zero, on the This is Money website.
September 2021: read Amanda's CEO Perspective on Get Nature Positive's website.
20 December 2020: read Amanda's interview with The Sunday Times.
5 November 2020: read Amanda's views on lockdown and what is required from business to support its people and customers, first published in The Times.
Messages for our people
26 March 2021 read Amanda's strategy milestone message to our people as we announce the sale of Aviva Poland.
1 March 2021: watch Amanda's sustainability message to our people as we become the first major insurer worldwide to target Net Zero carbon by 2040.
18 December 2020: watch Amanda’s December 2020 thank you message to our people - for being there for our customers and each other in what has been an extraordinary year.
11 November 2020: watch Amanda's 2020 Remembrance Day message to our people on our Remembrance page.
11 November 2020: read Amanda's wellbeing message to our people as governments in many parts of the world experience new surges of coronavirus infections.