The view from

Peter Murphy FCCA, head of compliance, Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland, on handling merger challenges

The life assurance businesses of Aviva and Friends First in Ireland recently merged. My department is focused on ensuring the two businesses come together seamlessly so that stakeholders, customers and regulators are all kept happy.

My department is made up of legacy staff from Aviva and Friends First, but both businesses have always had a sharp focus on compliance. My current role centres on bringing values as well as processes and procedures together.

What’s changed in terms of stakeholder expectations in the last few years is that patience no longer exists. Lead times have become shorter and deadlines tighter. Urgency is paramount even when not an absolute necessity.

Lead times have become shorter and deadlines tighter. Urgency is paramount even when not an absolute necessity

If I was to set out my future path, I might choose to bring my financial and compliance skills together to make for a better customer journey. In the life and pensions business customers can be with us for much of their lives. That’s relatively unusual nowadays, and I think we can probably do more to get closer to customers on their life journey. That said, sitting outside a French villa enjoying a glass of Muscadet would be welcome too!

One of the big challenges we’ve addressed in the last year is completing the legal transaction to sell Friends First from Achmea to Aviva and then achieving all the regulatory approvals. We then relocated over 200 staff in a way that minimised personal disruption for them. Finally, the transfer of the Aviva branch book of business into the Friends First Company was completed in March and the company renamed Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland.

I have always been very lucky to work for companies that take their social responsibility extremely seriously. Aviva gives generously to Dublin Pride each year to show where we stand on inclusivity. Another four worthy causes selected by staff every two years also benefit from our fundraising efforts.

The most important business lesson I have learned in my career is that when everything gets so busy that you don’t think you can cope, focus on achieving just three or four important things. Alternatively, break every large task down into smaller chunks – it’s amazing how much easier things can get once you approach them in that way.

In brief

Topline upswing

Irish private companies expect revenues to grow over the next year and almost half plan to recruit, according to a survey by Deloitte. More than a third expect revenues to rise by at least 51% over the next 12 months, and a third expect to go public. Significantly, 85% derive more than a quarter of their revenues from outside Ireland. Daniel Murray, a Deloitte Ireland partner, said: ‘These businesses are the engine of our economy, and their importance and contribution to employment and economic progress here is critical.’

Contraction accelerates

Northern Ireland has experienced its sharpest fall in business activity since 2012, the latest IHS Markit report for Ulster Bank has revealed. Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland for Ulster Bank, said: ‘April saw an improvement in business conditions across most of the UK, but Northern Ireland was a notable exception to this trend. Indeed, rather than improving, the pace of contraction across a range of indicators accelerated.’ Ulster University’s Economic Policy Centre has predicted economic growth in Northern Ireland will be 1.3% this year, 1.2% in 2020 and 0.9% in 2021 and 2022.