Aviva will remain competitive in healthcare in 2010 but not at the expense of profitability, its new managing director (MD) has stated.
Phil Willcock, who succeeds Gil Baldwin as MD of Britain’s third largest private medical insurance (PMI) provider, said that Aviva intends to grow market share in all of its key product lines over the next 12 months.
Speaking exclusively to Health Insurance ahead of his formal start date in January, Willcock said: “We will be competitive next year but what we won’t be is a volume junkie. Aviva has very tight controls and disciplines around price. We’ll be equally competitive next year but not at the expense of profitability.”
Equally, though, Willcock stressed that there are specific areas of the business that he is “absolutely” intent on growing, notably group risk and international medical insurance.
“Our PMI business is going like a train at the moment and I’d like to get our group risk business up to that,” he said.
Willcock also reiterated Aviva’s determination to grow its international and expatriate PMI business significantly. Aviva spokesmen have recently told Health Insurance that the provider aims to increase its market share of international PMI from less than 1% to more than 10% – a figure which is similar to its current share of the domestic PMI market.
“Generally, Aviva won’t enter a market without the intention of being a top three player,” Willcock said.
Willcock also reaffirmed Aviva’s commitment to the intermediary market, although he stressed on behalf of the provider, once again, that it does not intend to acquire distribution.
Competitor insurers, notably AXA, have been behind a string of provider- led acquisitions of intermediary and consulting firms over recent years but Willcock said Aviva has “no interest” in intermediary ownership.
“I’m reasonably agnostic about it at a macro level but I believe that running distribution is best left to people who know how to run distribution,” he said. He added that those firms which have been acquired are all “very professional” organisations that he is keen to continue to work with in the future.
However, while Aviva will not be acquiring distribution, Willcock said he believes there is “still room” for further consolidation in the intermediary market in the short term. While there have been some changes to the intermediary market since Willcock first worked in it – it is “a lot more competitive” than before, he says – the key figures from the world of broking and consulting remain.
“There has been consolidation, but the same big names are there, broadly with the same good people there,” he said.
Willcock said he is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with many consultants and intermediaries he has worked with previously. He is also looking forward to working closely with Mark Noble, sales & marketing director, Aviva, UK Health.
“I’m very focused on the relationship side of things but I won’t be stepping on Mark’s toes,” Willcock said. “You don’t do that when you’ve got the best sales director in the market.”
Willcock will also be working closely with Richard Verdin, Aviva’s director of protection, to capitalise on potential synergies between the two businesses, with a view to increasing sales of term, critical illness and income protection products in the individual consumer market.
“I have that bridge between the two businesses, so I can help to join them up,” he said.
In terms of healthcare, while Willcock said he would be in a better position to assess Aviva’s position later down the line, he explained that he was fortunate to be assuming the role of MD is that the business is in good shape.
“One of the attractions of coming into the role is that this is not a business in distress,” he said. “In healthcare, there’s not a lot that needs fixing, there’s nothing on fire.”
Much of that good work, he said, was down to the efforts of the organisation’s staff as well as the achievements of a former MD of Aviva’s healthcare business, Graham Boffey, now corporate and consumer director, UK Life, responsible for corporate benefits and healthcare.
Willcock, who will report to Boffey, also said Aviva’s healthcare operations had benefited from the efforts of Gil Baldwin, who is leaving the organisation to pursue other interests. Baldwin, Willcock said, had brought “focus and energy” to the business.
“The cost base of the business is better, the service is better thanks to Gil,” Willcock said.
Willcock formally assumes the role this month.
PHIL WILLCOCK – A CAREER AT AVIVA
The new managing director of Aviva’s UK healthcare business has spent his entire career at the organisation in a number of roles, both in the direct and intermediated markets.
2008–2009 Director of corporate benefits, Norwich Union Life (Now Aviva Life)
2006–2008 Director of business development, retail, Norwich Union Life
2006 Director of life and healthcare distribution, Norwich Union
2003–2006 Director of sales and marketing, Norwich Union Healthcare
2001–2003 Head of distribution change strategy/head of marketing strategy, Norwich Union Life
2000–2001 Head of IFA marketing, Norwich Union Life
1996–2000 Range of sales and technical sales management roles within Commercial Union, CGU and Norwich Union UCLH AND HCA TO