Aviva’s Irish general insurance and life units see profits double

Combined profit from businesses climbs to €57m

UK insurance giant Aviva’s combined operating profit from its Irish general insurance and life and pensions businesses doubled last year to €57 million.

The general insurance unit, Aviva Insurance Ireland, including car and home coverage and led by chief executive Declan O'Rourke, saw its operating profit increase by 34.4 per cent to €43 million, amid lower expenses and reduced claims due to Covid-19.

Gross written premiums in the business rose 1.7 per cent to €474 million, mainly as a result of growth in commercial business lines, the company said in a statement on Wednesday as the wider Aviva group reported annual results.

“In 2020, we entered the financial lines market, expanding our range of covers to include professional indemnity and directors and officers insurance. We have also deployed significant new capacity in areas where insurance capacity is scarce, for example, the charity, leisure and community sectors,” said Mr O’Rourke.


Mr O'Rourke echoed comments from rivals in recent months in saying that while Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Piab) awards have fallen as a result of new judicial guidelines introduced last April, there has also been a decline in acceptance rates for Piab assessments and a reduction in direct settlements.

“This will ultimately lead to more claims going to court, which is the most expensive claims settlement channel. This will undermine the impact of reforms,” he said.

Piab powers

Still, Mr O’Rourke said he welcomed the Government’s current plan to strengthen the powers of the Piab to compel early engagement between parties involved in claims and reduce the level of cases going to court.

Meanwhile, Aviva Life and Pensions Ireland, led by chief executive David Elliot, swung into an operating profit of €14 million last year from a €4 million loss sustained in 2020, according to a separate statement from that company.

The improvement was driven by reduced expenses, higher recurring income and “improving claims experience”, it said.

The present value of new business premiums grew by 10 per cent last year to €1.91 billion, due to strong sales in protection and unit-linked investments.

Russian exposure

Overall, Aviva reported a 10 per cent drop in 2021 operating profit and said it will return £4.75 billion (€5.71 billion) to shareholders.

Aviva had previously said it would give back at least £4 billion to investors following a string of disposals. Activist investor Cevian has sought £5 billion in a cash return by the end of 2022.

Aviva has raised £7.5 billion from selling eight businesses across the globe since the appointment of Amanda Blanc as chief executive in July 2020.

“We’ve achieved a lot in the last year but we’re only just getting started,” said Ms Blanc.

Aviva’s fund management unit has less than 0.1 per cent exposure to Russia and the British insurer is planning to sell it, said Ms Blanc on Wednesday.

“We have a very, very minimal exposure to Russia via Aviva Investors . . . We will be divesting of that exposure as soon as we practically can,” she said.

Aviva also said it was buying adviser Succession Wealth for £385 million.

It upgraded its cost savings target to £750 million for the 2018-24 period. Cevian had been pushing Aviva to cut costs more aggressively.

Operating profit from continuing operations was £1.63 billion, hurt by weaker performance in the insurer’s UK life business.

Aviva said it would pay a total 2021 dividend of 22.05 pence per share, and expected a 40 per cent increase in 2022 dividend to around 31.5 pence. – Additional reporting: Reuters

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times