Aviva’s chief executive said the outcry following sexist remarks made at the UK insurer’s general meeting showed the episode had “struck a chord with many people” and might prompt others to consider how they run their own AGMs.
A social media post made by Amanda Blanc condemning the sexist remarks has been viewed more than 1mn times. She also received a deluge of supportive emails, texts and WhatsApp messages, she told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
“It took that AGM for people to perhaps have another think about what they might do at their AGMs or when they encounter situations like that in future,” she said.
Blanc, Aviva’s first female chief executive and a government champion for Women in Finance, said there were too few women in senior positions in the financial services sector, and that putting in “hard yards” was necessary to achieve change. “It’s not a norm to see a woman on a stage like that . . . I just want to be judged on what I’m doing here at Aviva.”
The FTSE 100 insurer issued its first-quarter results on Wednesday, showing growing sales across each division but also the impact of inflation and regulatory intervention on the general insurance business.
“This is not the time particularly to grow market share in general insurance,” Blanc said, citing the threat from inflation, which is pushing up claims costs.
In personal insurance, prices for new customers rose at the start of the year, but renewal prices fell by an average of 0-5 per cent in motor and by 5-13 per cent in home insurance as the business adjusted for reforms that stamped out so-called loyalty penalties for existing customers.
Aviva has returned £4.75bn of capital to its shareholders after a string of disposals since Blanc joined the business in 2020.
Its latest results show that following this exercise, and assuming the completion of further debt reduction efforts and a payment to a company pension fund, the business had a pro forma solvency ratio — its capital as a percentage of the level required by the regulator — of 192 per cent.
This remains higher than the 180 per cent level above which the company has said it would consider returning excess capital. Blanc said it would always consider further moves if there was not a better case for investing that money in the business.
Aviva’s share price was up 0.9 per cent in morning trading in London.