A successful debut for McFarlane will rely on a clear disposal plan

 
Elizabeth Fournier
WHILE most of the UK’s attention was well and truly focused on the Olympics this weekend, shareholders in Aviva and other insurers may also have had one eye on the weather forecast.

Analysts are already predicting Aviva’s general insurance profits will drop by as much as five per cent after heavy rain caused damage across the UK in June, so fresh warnings of flash flooding in southern Scotland last night will have done little to boost confidence.

But investors will be more interested in the summer diet that McFarlane is putting the firm on – and whether a leaner, meaner Aviva will emerge as it seeks buyers for flabby, margin-swallowing businesses.

It’s vital that he uses this Thursday’s presentation to put his stamp on the firm and to promise real changes – followed through with decisive action.

Gloomy forecasts – and chief executives – come and go. What Aviva needs is a long-term strategy to improve competitiveness, cuts costs and convince investors it can weather temporary storms.