Aviva chairman John McFarlane admitted yesterday the company had moved more slowly because of a culture of collective decision-making at the insurer.

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Mr McFarlane, who is spearheading a £400m cost-cutting programme at the home, motor and life insurance business, said that although it would take time to change the company was beginning to make progress.

The restructuring, which will see hundreds of staff lose their jobs across the business, including at its general insurance headquarters in Norwich follows the departure of chief executive Andrew Moss in May amid discontent over a poor share price performance.

Mr McFarlane said Aviva was “blessed with a terrific brand and really professional front-line staff”.

However, he added: “On the other hand, culturally the organisation has been more used to collective decision making and has moved more slowly as a result.”

As part of the plans announced in July, Mr McFarlane is working towards the sale or scaling-back of 16 underperforming businesses. In a trading update, Mr McFarlane said Aviva was actively pursuing the sale of its US life and annuities business and he was hopeful of a resolution soon.

The insurer saw its UK sales fall slightly to £8bn in the first nine months of 2012, while its general insurance operating ratio, the measure of the profitability of its insurance premiums, remained flat at 97pc.

Aviva’s UK motor insurance business has seen its net written premiums grow 8pc in 2012 and it has taken on more than 250,000 net new customers since the beginning of the year.

The insurer said this had been driven by new initiatives including its Quotemehappy website and multicar initiative.

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