Haste goes out on a high as business he rebuilt turns in solid performance

RSA’s outgoing chief executive Andy Haste will be well remembered as the man who turned the British insurance company’s fortunes around. After taking on the floundering insurer in 2003, when its market value stood at £1bn, his eight years at the helm have proved ultimately successful.

Faced with huge losses, Haste was quick to make bold decisions; offloading failing non-core business and cutting thousands of jobs. Other measures to restore the company included several acquisitions and moving the firm’s offices out of Mayfair. Now, RSA has a market cap of £4.6bn, and profits rising 25 per cent in the first half of the year.

But Haste’s tenure has not been without turbulence. Last year his £5bn bid to buy the UK, Irish and Canadian general insurance operations of Aviva was turned down flat. He’s also received public retribution over his 2009 pay package of £2.3m. He received a 14 per cent pay rise, despite RSA’s profits falling by 27 per cent in the same year.

Haste is said to be a hands-on but relaxed employer, avoiding, when possible, the formal suits of other chief execs. However, he does keep an emergency stash of ties in his office, wary of unexpected visitors.

Relatively unknown before he took the top job at RSA, Haste was previously chief executive of AXA Sun Life, but had no experience in life insurance before he joined the French company. He started his career with a 16 year stint at NatWest, rising to be chief executive of NatWest Offshore.

At 49, Haste, a non-executive director of ITV, surely has a lot to come, with many surprised that he doesn’t have another role on the horizon. Given RSA’s success, one would expect he has many offers.