If Andrea Moneta were ever to leave Aviva for a hedge fund, he would complete a full five-card trick of financial services careers.
The chief executive of Aviva’s continental European business, a tall, fair Italian with a powerful handshake and jocular charm, has already occupied senior posts at the European Central Bank, UniCredit, the Italian banking group, and Dubai Financial Group, part of the sovereign wealth fund.
Mr Moneta added insurance to his CV when he arrived at Aviva last year after being wooed by Andrew Moss, group chief executive. The two had met when Aviva, the UK’s second-biggest insurance group, was negotiating a distribution deal with a bank in which the Dubai Financial Group had a stake. “He said to me: ‘This is a very nice deal, but why don’t we do it with you on the other side of the table?’” says Mr Moneta.
Aviva needed a high-calibre candidate to replace Tidjane Thiam, who had been poached by rival Prudential a few months earlier.
The position is a key one for Aviva. The insurer generates half of its sales of long-term savings products in continental Europe, and the overhaul to be announced on Thursday is designed to increase the efficiency and profitability of the various operating companies in the region.
Mr Moneta, who is also an Aviva board member, will not discuss whether he could be interested in the group chief executive role, claiming only to have aspirations linked to the success of the European business.
To many insurance analysts he is an unknown quantity, while Mark Hodges, who leads Aviva’s UK business, is seen as Mr Moss’s favoured successor.
Mr Moneta joined Aviva because he saw good opportunities to make a real difference in insurance and thought that the company was “a very nice company, well organised, but I did not see a clear, compelling and bold European strategy.
“At my first meeting with the CEOs of all the businesses, all of my direct reports, I asked them: ‘As entrepreneurs or owners, would you run these businesses organised as they are?’ There was a cold silence,” Mr Moneta said.
This sparked the change in thinking that helped Mr Moneta gain his managers’ support for the “quantum leap” he wants the business to make. The aim is to simplify and “industrialise” the business, which means separating and streamlining the manufacture and distribution of products.
He also believes the industry can improve the customer’s experience and make buying products easier. “Insurance should bring prosperity and peace of mind, it’s a nice stuff to have, but the experience is not always so pleasant,” he says. “If you can improve the experience then you can improve the fidelity.”
In Europe, as few as one-in-10 people buy more than one product from a single insurance company. Most people have three or four insurance policies with three or four providers and Mr Moneta is determined to capture more of each customer’s business. One big obstacle could come from greater internet-based competition for simpler products such as car and home insurance. Admiral, the UK car insurance and online price comparison company, has recently stepped up efforts to establish a similar model in Spain.
However, Mr Moneta does not see a threat. “I don’t think the UK model is going to be replicated elsewhere,” he says. “Even if European markets go more into the direct sales model, it does not mean you will necessarily have less loyalty from the customers.”
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