Wednesday 17 January 2018

Concerns growing all Aviva branches face axe

Laura Noonan and Anne Marie Walsh

FEARS grew last night that Aviva is about to close all its Irish branches after a leaked document revealed details of how the insurer plans to shed half of the 950 jobs under the axe.

The insurer yesterday lost its second chief executive in less than a year -- just a month after it confirmed the massive job losses. Its Irish operations are to become a 'branch' of Aviva UK, and its Dublin-based European hub will be axed.

Aviva Ireland chief executive Dermot Browne was prominent in explaining the restructuring to staff and reassure them about Aviva's commitment to Ireland.

Yesterday, Aviva announced that Mr Browne, who is in his 50s and from Galway, was leaving to pursue "new challenges outside Aviva".

Mr Browne had only took on the top job in February, replacing Jim Dowdall who had been in the role for less than two years. It is understood Mr Browne was unhappy at the radical overhaul of the insurer, which began just months after he accepted the chief executive's chair.

Aviva last night declined to comment on details of the departing chief executive's severance package, saying any arrangement was "a private matter between Dermot and Aviva". Mr Browne's immediate plans are unclear -- sources last night said that while he was "very well respected" in the life insurance industry, there were not many jobs at his level.

The top job at Aviva Ireland will now be filled by Sean Egan, a 55-year-old Londoner from Aviva Europe who yesterday said he was "confident" about the Irish unit's future despite the "challenges" the business faces. He vowed to engage positively with employees and try to ensure all redundancies were on a voluntary basis.

However, his appointment got a "cool" reception from trade union Unite.

"He has been central to the decision to tear apart the Irish operation of Aviva," Unite's Brian Gallagher said yesterday.

Consultation

Mr Gallagher also lashed out at reports last night that Aviva plans to close all its Irish branches by next summer.

The plans were outlined in a memo prepared for Aviva Ireland's board, which also details where about 450 of the job losses will come from.

Mr Gallagher added that Aviva had told the union details would not be available until January.

Unite is seeking an immediate meeting with Mr Egan to clarify the situation.

A spokesman for the insurer last night insisted that work "continues on the feasibility of our options and no decisions have been made".

"We are committed to a consultation process and sharing the outcome of our discussions with our employees first," he added.

Irish Independent

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