The HI Profile: Aviva's Mark Noble

The new Aviva UK Health boss discusses his plans with Health Insurance editor David Sawers

There have been a number of occupants in the hot seat at Aviva UK Health over recent years. Health Insurance editor David Sawers meets the latest executive to take up the challenge and finds a man who knows the organisation better than most.

It was not that long ago, I tell Mark Noble when I meet him at Aviva UK Health’s headquarters in Hampshire, that I was sitting in the very same office interviewing Phil Willcock, his immediate predecessor, about his plans for the insurer’s health and risk business. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago since I interviewed Willcock’s own predecessor, Gil Baldwin about his plans for the provider.

It’s a role, I venture, that has seen a lot of changes over recent years. Prior to Willcock’s tenure, Baldwin, Graham Boffey and Cathryn Riley all spent relatively short spells as MD of the health business. Noble, who took the role on in the summer, nods.

“It’s not been a role that people have been in for that long a period of time,” he says. “The main reason is that Aviva has seen it as somewhere where people have the opportunity to get on the life board or the general insurance board, where you run your own profit and loss, where you run your own business.”

Noble is keen to stress that while there have been regular changes at the top, the provider is full of people who – like him – have been there for a long time. Indeed, aside from Baldwin, the previous heads of Aviva’s UK health business have all stayed at the insurer, progressing to more senior roles. Willcock, for example, is now propositions director for Aviva’s UK Life business.

“You see a lot of movement from a MD point of view but underneath that we’ve got a significant amount of service,” Noble explains.

Looking at the healthcare team which has been assembled under Noble seems to bear that point out. Adam Beckett, who assumes Noble’s previous role as sales & marketing director, has been with Aviva for more than ten years, as has finance director Rob Cowley, while Al Wighton, who sits on the UK Health board as head of clinical services, has been there for more than five years.

So how does Noble – who himself has been with Aviva for 18 years – feel about finally getting the top job in the insurer’s health & risk business? While he insists that he will not be stuck behind his desk – “I expect to be as external-facing as I was before” – Noble is keen that other members of the team raise their profile too.

“I have different responsibilities now and the bit I’ve been trying to do is not tread on people’s toes,” he says. “That’s been the hardest thing. Adam [Beckett] has taken over from me as sales & marketing director and the bit of the job that I really do like is being out in the market. I know a lot of the intermediaries really well and our large corporate customers too.”


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