Senior white men recruited for jobs at multinational insurance company Aviva have to be vetted first by the firm’s first female chief executive

  • Amanda Blanc: ‘No non-diverse hire at Aviva without it being signed off by me’
  • Chief executive revealed policy to MPs on Treasury select committee yesterday

The boss of Aviva has revealed senior white male recruits have to get a final sign-off from her and the chief people officer as part of the firm’s drive to improve diversity.

Amanda Blanc, who became the insurer’s first female chief executive in 2020, said the policy formed part of its efforts to end sexism in the financial services industry.

The 56-year-old told MPs on the Treasury select committee that ‘there is no non-diverse hire at Aviva without it being signed off by me and the chief people officer’.

Speaking at the Sexism in the City inquiry yesterday, she continued: ‘Not because I don’t trust my team but because I want to make sure that the process followed for that recruitment has been diverse, has been properly done and is not just a phone call to a mate to say, ‘would you like a job, pop up and we’ll fix it up for you’.’

Mrs Blanc’s comments are understood to only relate to senior hires at the London-based firm which has 22,000 staff, reported the Daily Telegraph. MailOnline asked Aviva today whether it can provide any further information and awaits a response.

Amanda Blanc became the first female chief executive of the insurer Aviva in 2020

During the hearing yesterday Mrs Blanc, who also sits on BP’s board, warned that sexism in the financial services sector is worse than in wider society.

Amanda Blanc: Mother-of-two chief executive who drives a Tesla 

Lives: Hampshire and London

Family: Husband Ken, and daughters Caitlin and Rhiannon

Drives: Tesla Model Y

Hobbies: Works out on Peloton Bike and Zwift Indoor Racing. Enjoys Welsh Rugby and playing the piano

Education: Treorchy Comprehensive in Wales, University of Liverpool (History), University of Leeds (MBA) and Chartered Insurer (ACII)

Career: 33 years in Financial Services. Graduate trainee at Commercial Union, Ernst & Young, Groupama, Towergate. Group chief executive AXA UK & PPP and chief executive Zurich EMEA before rejoining Aviva as Group chief executive.

She told MPs that while she had some ‘very positive experiences’ in the industry, ‘many women do not’.

Mrs Blanc, who lives in Hampshire with her husband Ken and has two daughters aged 21 and 17, added: ‘We are dealing with a societal issue that is definitely amplified in financial services.’

She was speaking to the Treasury committee as part of the third public hearing of its sexism inquiry, which was launched after a flurry of harassment allegations rocked the business world.

Mrs Blanc revealed that women from across the industry had been writing to her in recent days as she prepared for the hearing, sharing ‘absolutely appalling’ accounts of harassment, including unwanted sexual advances, being followed into hotel rooms, or being told their pregnancies were ‘inconvenient’ for the firm.

The testimonies also included evidence of women being excluded from key meetings and overlooked for promotions.

The City is under fresh scrutiny after a string of controversies this year, including scandals at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and a flurry of claims brought against hedge fund manager Crispin Odey.

Her comments also came on the same day that former BP boss Bernard Looney was forced to forfeit £32.4million after he committed ‘serious misconduct’ over relationships with colleagues.

Mrs Blanc said Aviva had acted to sack male employees for inappropriate behaviour.

Mrs Blanc spoke to the Treasury select committee for the Sexism in the City inquiry yesterday

She told MPs: ‘Every individual firm has to be accountable for any allegations such as this, and the women in the firm have to know that there is a process for speaking up; that that process will be acted on; that everything will be investigated; and that the person who did the bad leaves the organisation, not the women.

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‘And we have had experiences like that at Aviva, where the woman has stayed and man has gone.’

Politicians said they had been ‘extremely shocked’ by private testimony they had also heard from women working in finance about sexual assault, harassment, bullying and a culture that allows perpetrators impunity.

Labour MP Angela Eagle said ‘a series of well-known bad apples that nobody ever does anything about’ continued to operate in the industry. She did not name names.

Mrs Blanc is known for being a pioneer in male-dominated sectors, holding a string of senior roles in insurance and chairing the Professional Rugby Board for Wales until she stepped down in 2021.

She also spoke about Aviva’s infamous annual general meeting last year when one investor complained that she was not ‘the man for the job’. She reiterated that the comments were ‘unacceptable’.

Mrs Blanc added that physical and verbal harassment of women in financial services eclipsed other industries and that she had heard ‘absolutely appalling’ stories.

She said she had posted a message on LinkedIn before appearing before MPs and had been ‘inundated’ by private messages from women about ‘predominantly poor experiences’.

Amanda Blanc laughs with Kate Middleton at a Business Taskforce for Early Childhood meeting in London on March 21

‘I have been in the situation where I have had a pregnancy test in one hand and a job offer in the other, and a boss who says: ‘You still join’,’ she said.

‘However, many women do not … The women in a firm need to know there is a process for speaking up, that that process will be acted on, that everything will be investigated and that the actual person who did the (wrong) will leave the organisation, not the woman.’

Mrs Blanc is the champion of a government Women in Finance Charter initiative that is pushing for equal gender representation.

She said that the scale of verbal and physical abuse in finance firms surveyed last year was 10 percentage points higher than in other industries, at 43 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.

Perpetrators of predatory behaviour needed to leave the business, she said.

Amanda Blanc
Amanda Blanc

Mrs Blanc added that the more subtle misconduct of excluding women from promotion or meetings, and snide comments that prevented them from speaking up, was often about management.

‘The scope of the charter is to get more women into senior management roles,’ she said. ‘My belief is if you have more women in senior management roles, this behaviour will go away.’

The Treasury select committee’s inquiry has also heard evidence of ongoing discrimination and harassment in the industry, as well as a persistently high pay gap.

Fund management grandee Baroness Morrissey told the committee in October that sexism was ‘endemic’ across financial services and is still run by an ‘old boys’ network’.

She called for independent reviews into how firms deal with complaints of sexual harassment, adding that watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, could better use its powers to tackle the problem – including penalising firms for failing to act.


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