Amanda Blanc

Amanda Blanc

Group CEO

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 2021 full year results video:

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Sarah Applegate

Thank you for having me here today to talk about the results with you.

So, Amanda, are you pleased with the progress so far that Aviva's made under your leadership?

Amanda Blanc

Sarah, good to be with you again.

Yeah, I'm really pleased with today's results. I think that we've made great progress in the three areas of the strategy that we said we would.

We've completed the disposal programme, which I think is terrific.

We've actually rebuilt our financial strength, which is something that we committed to do, less than 20 months ago.

But I think today I'm so pleased about the actual performance of the group.

If you look at the growth results, they're really strong, but also we've seen the cost reduction that we've committed to.

So I think overall, really good operating momentum, and I'm very, very pleased with that.

Sarah Applegate

Can you give us an update on how much capital we're going to be returning to shareholders?

Amanda Blanc

I can. If you remember, we said that we would be returning at least £4 billion to shareholders but I'm really pleased that today we can say that we will be returning £4.75 billion to shareholders, which I believe is a very, very good outcome.

And as well as that, I'm very pleased that due to the value that's being created by all of the people, all of our colleagues at Aviva, each of our colleagues will get £1,000 of free shares, which shows that we really value their commitment to the group.

So even after returning £4.75 billion, we have the capacity and the confidence to invest in the business and what we show today is that we will invest £300 million to accelerate some of the great growth opportunities that there are in the market. But we will also invest £200 million in the cost and efficiency of the business which will help us of course to grow the profitability.

Sarah Applegate

So how did Aviva's core businesses perform in 2021?

Amanda Blanc

Each of the core businesses made a really great contribution to 2021.

So let's look at each of them in turn.

If we look at the Life company and the Savings and Retirement business, £10 billion of net flows in 2021, that's a really terrific achievement.

We saw robust margins in the BPA business and volumes at over £6 billion, which I think is great.

In the General Insurance business, both in Canada and in the UK, the volume is now £8.8 billion of gross written premium, which I think we're all incredibly pleased with.

Aviva Investors made good progress on reducing their costs, which was a key challenge for them during 2021 and their fund performance improved.

And overall, we saw our costs come down because I think we were always conscious of the fact that we needed to be more efficient for the benefit of our customers and I think we've started to really see that come through.

Of course, cash is key to Aviva's results, Sarah, and the cash remittances are up 22%. So a very, very strong performance.

Sarah Applegate

So given Aviva's performance and outlook, what does this mean for shareholder dividends?

Amanda Blanc

Well, today we're announcing that the final dividend for 2021 is just over 22p, which is 5% up on 2020.

So I think that's very good news for our shareholders.

We're also today announcing an updated dividend policy. And I think it shows the real confidence that we have in the group going forward. It's very attractive but also sustainable.

Sarah Applegate

What are the main priorities for 2022 and beyond for Aviva?

Amanda Blanc

We see so many opportunities in the markets in which we operate, UK, Ireland and Canada, in the wealth space and in the general insurance space and the opportunity for the Life company to work together with Aviva Investors I think really plays to that.

So we're really confident that the macro growth opportunities and the Aviva capabilities sit side by side.

So we've announced today the acquisition of Succession Wealth.

One of the areas that we've long spoken about is our desire to really bolster our capabilities in the advice space and Succession Wealth does just that. So we're really pleased to welcome the Succession team to the group.

I'm very excited that this gives us a great enhancement to our current capabilities in this area.

So the second priority for Aviva is around our customers. We have over 18 million customers across the group. And what we want to do is make their experience of dealing with Aviva easier.

So whether that's in the way that we transact our business with them, whether that's digitally or over the phone, or in the simplicity of the products that we provide to them.

We know that financial services can be a complex space. We have a real opportunity to make a big difference to our customers in the way that we present those products to them.

In the way that we build those products sustainably, I think that that is what customers are looking for.

We have a very strong ESG proposition and we're making sure that we would build that into the products that we develop.

Our third priority area is around efficiency. Aviva is often being accused of being a complex organisation. It's not so complex today. We have the UK, Ireland, Canada and Aviva Investors.

So we've simplified the portfolio, now we need to simplify the businesses within the portfolio and you'll have seen we've made great progress on the cost reduction.

That means that we have less products. It means we have less systems. So we're simplifying the business, and that will have a good impact on our customers because our cost to serve those customers will be reduced.

And finally, our fourth priority is sustainability.

Aviva has a strong history in this area, and we don't want to become complacent. We want to continue to build on that. We're building sustainable products in the wealth business. We are having fantastic success in the funds that the Aviva Investors team are launching and we will continue to look for more opportunities, as we'll have seen in the last week with the launch of Aviva Zero, which is our net-zero proposition for motor insurance.

So we continue to build upon that and I think play a really important role in society by our infrastructure investment, which is, of course, all part of the levelling up agenda in the UK.

Sarah Applegate

So you announced some upgraded targets today. Can you tell me a bit more about those?

Amanda Blanc

Yes, so I think it shows the confidence we have in the outlook for the group that we've been able to do that.

The first is cumulative cash remittances, over the next three years of greater than £5.4 billion.

The second target is a growth target. It's a new target and it's on own funds generation and the target is to be at £1.5 billion by 2024.

The third target is on cost reduction, where we've upgraded our current target to £750 million gross of inflation. 

Sarah Applegate

So if you could possibly whittle it down to a few key takeaways for people listening to our 2021 results, what would they be?

Amanda Blanc

So we've made really rapid progress and I think that's a good thing because that allows us to now move on.

And the next phase is about delivering Aviva's promise. And that's where the whole of Aviva, whatever part of the organisation you work in is going to come together to deliver for our customers.

So I guess the final thing I would say is just thank you to everybody for everything that they've contributed to get us this far.

Career highlights

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 2021, Amanda was awarded the Women in Insurance Outstanding Achievement Award and recognised in the Forbes list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women.

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 Co-Chair of the UK Transition Taskforce, which is developing a gold standard for private sector climate transition plans, and she is a member of  WWF-UK's Council of ambassadors

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. 

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Amanda Blanc, Group CEO Aviva
CNBC
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. 

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Publications

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.

5 May 2021: read Amanda's interview with The CII Journal

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.