In Canada he rose to executive vice-president-level before moving to London in 1999 to become managing director at CGU, which merged with Norwich Union to become Avvia.
He became finance director of Aviva’s UK general insurance business in 2000, but returned to lead Aviva Canada in 2001.
Mayer, 51, returned to the UK again in 2007 to head the general business, before moving to Iowa as US chief executive in January 2010. Aviva said Mayer had more than doubled profits there in that year.
Sources said Mayer was a “deliverer” who had “a very strong track record”. Mayer also oversaw the rebranding of Norwich Union as Aviva in 2009.