Aviva hires Friends Provident ex-CEO for UK unit

LONDON, June 2 (Reuters) – British insurer Aviva Plc on Thursday named highly-regarded industry veteran Trevor Matthews as head of its UK division, replacing Mark Hodges, who resigned unexpectedly.

Australian-born Matthews, a former head of rival insurer Friends Provident who previously ran Standard Life’s UK arm, will take up the role “as soon as possible,” Aviva said.

Matthews is credited with helping boost profits at Standard Life in the run-up to its 2006 demutualisation, and with overseeing a turnaround at Friends prior to its takeover by insurance acquisition specialist Resolution <=”” p=””>

“He’s a very safe pair of hands, enormously competent. He’s been there and done it,” said Investec analyst Kevin Ryan.

Matthews had said in January that he planned to return to Australia, quitting as Friends chief executive and taking on the role of vice chairman instead.

He has a six-month notice period at Friends, a Resolution spokesman said.

Hodges will become head of insurance broker Towergate, which may seek a stock market listing within the next five years as private equity shareholder Advent International looks to cash in on its 200 million pound ($326.9 million) investment.

Hodges had worked at Aviva for 20 years, and had been seen as a possible replacement for Chief Executive Andrew Moss, alongside finance director Pat Regan.

“I am very sorry to see Mark leave, but we understand that he wishes to take on a different challenge at this stage in his career,” Moss said in a statement.

Aviva shares were 0.8 percent lower at 429 pence by 1515 GMT, narrowly outperforming the FTSE 100 share index, which was down 1 percent.