Aviva is the fifth largest insurance group in the world, the biggest in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe. Its main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance. The group has some 58,000 employees and 35 million customers worldwide. The company has had a good year, reporting in February a 22 per cent rise in full-year sales to over £31 billion to the end of December. The group’s Norwich Union brand revealed record sales due to the pension changes introduced in April 2006 leading to a 40 per cent rise year-on-year in pension sales to some £5bn.

In a bid to achieve faster time to market, last summer Aviva decided to transfer over 5,000 business process outsourcing (BPO) staff from its Indian service providers to its own global services division in India. The move is part of a ‘build-operate-transfer’ project which started in 2003 when Aviva used external providers to set up BPO operations in India, with the option of taking the staff on at a later date. The staff transfer is due to be complete by early 2008 and covers operations in Bangalore, Pune and Colombo in Sri Lanka. The organisation expects to have around 8,000 staff working for it in India, including its own people as well as a number of its outsourcers. Although this operation is on course, in March an internal Norwich Union report revealed numerous failings in its Indian call centre operations that could lead to losses of more than £10 million and fines from the Financial Services Authority. The insurer responded by saying that it was not worried about the report because an action plan had been implemented for each problem, to be completed by the end of 2007. Better news for Norwich Union is the result of its adoption of an industry-standard skills framework that re-organises the way it manages 850 IT staff.

By using the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) to dispense with line managers in favour of a matrix of managers responsible for different aspects of each IT employee’s work and career, the organisation is claiming significant efficiency improvements in its IT department.