NU boss set to quit

SHAUN LOWTHORPE The man responsible for off-shoring thousands of Norwich Union jobs to India looks set to quit the firm in a boardroom shake-up. Patrick Snowball is reportedly set to resign from the insurance giant's parent company Aviva after a senior management reshuffle by Andrew Moss, the man who beat him in the race to take over from Richard Harvey as its new chief executive in July.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

The man responsible for off-shoring thousands of Norwich Union jobs to India looks set to quit the firm in a boardroom shake-up.

Patrick Snowball was last night reportedly set to resign imminently from the insurance giant's parent company Aviva after a senior management reshuffle by Andrew Moss, the man who beat him in the race to take over from Richard Harvey as its new chief executive in July.

Mr Snowball's departure after 18 years with the firm will be a shock for the company's thousands of workers and Norfolk's business community

With his having privately briefed journalists during a visit to Norwich last month that he wanted to stay in the post, the suspicion among industry insiders last night was that a rift could lie behind the parting of the ways.

One source said Mr Moss thought it unnecessary for Mr Snowball to remain in overall charge of the UK business but when he asked the 56-year-old whether he was happy to stay at the firm in another role, the latter decided to go.

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“Andrew has been working out the shape of his executive team,” the source said. “He was very keen for Patrick to decide whether he sees his future with the company.”

Last night Aviva declined to comment, but behind the scenes the firm was keen to stress the departure was by mutual agreement and play down suggestions of a putsch by Mr Moss.

But the shake-up is sure to raise a fresh wave of uncertainty about the future direction of the firm and the commitment of the new boss to the Norwich-based operation.

Confirmation of Mr Snowball's departure could come when the FTSE opens for business today while further announcements on the new senior line-up are also expected.

Other mooted changes include a more international element to senior roles, with the group's overseas business expected to be ramped up over the year ahead.

Mr Snowball, a former soldier, has a reputation for blunt speaking. In November he hit the headlines after attacking Britain's education system and calling for the return of competitive sports days and egg and spoon races to help prepare pupils for the world of work.

Last month he attacked politicians and union leaders who criticised firms for making bumper profits, while he has previously called for greater investment in Norfolk's rail and road networks.

As group executive director, Mr Snowball heads the firm's UK arm, largely comprising the NU brand and motoring group RAC, which Aviva bought in May 2005 for £1.1bn. He is the man ultimately in charge of around 7,500 NU staff based in Norwich.

He was also the architect of NU's offshoring project, which saw thousands of jobs moved to India. The outsourcing was recently in the news after the group admitted some problems over cultural differences between customers and its staff in India had led it to bringing some jobs back to the UK.

He also oversaw the move of staff out of the city centre to a site on the Broadland Business Park.

Mr Snowball joined Aviva in 1989, becoming a board director 10 years later. He led the team that acquired RAC, which contributed to an 8pc rise in general insurance business last year to £1.68bn.

If Mr Snowball joins Mr Harvey in leaving Aviva, it would mean that Philip Scott would be the only remaining senior member of the NU team who steered the company through its merger with CGU in 2000 - ultimately creating Aviva.