Troubled British insurer Aviva on Tuesday said it had appointed an outsider, sector heavyweight Mark Wilson to be its new chief executive and carry the group forward following recent shareholder and economic turbulence.
The 46-year-old New Zealander and former chief executive of Asian insurance giant AIA, replaces Andrew Moss, who in May quit as head of Aviva -- Britain's second biggest insurer after Prudential -- amid a shareholder revolt over his pay.
Wilson takes up his new post on January 1, 2013 after joining the board at the start of December, Aviva said in a statement. Most recently, he has been involved in the private equity sector, notably with US group Blackstone.
"I am delighted we have secured Mark for Aviva. His leadership credentials are incredibly strong," said group chairman John McFarlane, who had assumed executive duties following Moss' surprise departure.
"He has an outstanding track record of leading a major insurer, of transforming its performance and culture, of implementing a growth agenda and of producing significant shareholder value, all of which are essential for Aviva's success going forward."
Wilson, with a 25-year career in insurance behind him, was chief executive of AIA Group -- the Asian division of US insurer AIG -- between 2006 and 2010, during which time Prudential failed in an attempt to buy AIA for $35.5 billion.
In the wake of the collapsed Prudential deal in 2010, Wilson also oversaw preparations for AIA Group's partial stock market flotation, which raised $20.5 billion in a monster Hong Kong share sale later that year.
In May 2012, meanwhile, Moss sensationally resigned as Aviva chief executive amid spreading shareholder revolts over pay for top managers deemed as underperforming.
"My first task will be to listen to Aviva's stakeholders, including customers, shareholders, staff and regulators and ascertain the key concerns and opportunities that face the business," Wilson said in Tuesday's statement.
"There is substantial work to do. I am looking forward to taking up this appointment and excited about the future prospects for Aviva."
Wilson, who is married with three children, will receive a basic annual salary of £980,000 ($1.56 million, 1.24 million euros).
He will also have the opportunity to earn a 2013 bonus worth up to a maximum of 150 percent of his salary, "subject to strict performance conditions and the requirement to defer two thirds of any award made into Aviva stock for a further three years."
Following the resignation of Moss, Aviva announced plans in July to withdraw from 16 non-core business areas and unveiled senior management changes following a major strategic review that was aimed at strengthening its capital base.
Aviva is lagging behind Prudential, which recently posted soaring sales on the back of growth in Asia and despite a turbulent global economic backdrop.
"It is a privilege to lead Aviva... It is acknowledged that over recent years the company has not performed to its potential," added Wilson.
In reaction to his appointment, Aviva's share price jumped 1.12 percent to 334.90 pence on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies, which was up 0.13 percent at 5,744.95 points nearing the close.
Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers in London, described Wilson as a "credible replacement that will be well received by the market."
He added: "His experience is well suited to the new management strategy with a strong focus on the Asian and European markets that will appease investors."
Earlier this year, a raft of top British companies faced a wave of investor activism as shareholders rebelled over high boardroom pay amid underperformance in the poor economic climate -- and state moves to clamp down on corporate greed.
Moss resigned on May 8 after five years at the helm of the insurance group, and after becoming the latest victim of what analysts called the "shareholder spring".