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Aviva makes senior management changes

David McMillan becomes director of group transformation, while Robin Spencer is made chief of general insurance for the UK and Ireland.

The British insurance services group Aviva has reshuffled its senior management, appointing David McMillan as director of group transformation, Robin Spencer as chief executive of general insurance for the UK and Ireland, John Lister as group chief capital and risk officer and Carole Jones as acting group HR director. All changes are effective immediately.

McMillan was formerly chief executive of UK & Ireland General Insurance. He will manage the implementation of the new strategic plan across the group and will report to John McFarlane.

Spencer will be responsible for leading the company’s general insurance business. He will remain a member of the group executive and report to John McFarlane and Trevor Matthews.

Lister will replace Spencer in a new expanded role as group chief capital and risk officer, combining both functions and eliminating duplication between them. He will join the group executive and report to John McFarlane for risk and Pat Regan for capital.

In her new role, Jones will join the group executive and report to Kirsty Cooper. She has 21 years of experience at Aviva, most recently as HR director, group functions and Aviva Investors. Jones will replace John Ainley, who has resigned from the company after serving for 12 years.

John McFarlane, chairman of Aviva, said:

The search for a new CEO internally and externally is in progress advised by Spencer Stuart. I would expect an appointment to be made at the beginning of the new year, or shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, it is essential that we have the right people in place to implement the strategic plan and to achieve higher financial strength and performance. I am aware of past concerns regarding the frequency of management changes at Aviva; nevertheless I judge these new appointments to be essential.

I wish to express special thanks to John Ainley for his significant contribution over his 12 years at Aviva, and wish him well for the future. Aviva now has a senior management team which I believe has the right mix of experience and insurance expertise to deliver Aviva’s strategic plan.

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.