February 26, 2019 / 1:34 PM / a month ago

Insurer Direct Line names Penny James CEO

FILE PHOTO: A photo illustration shows insurance renewal notices from Direct Line in London October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

(Reuters) - Britain’s largest motor insurer Direct Line Insurance Group Plc said on Tuesday its Chief Financial Officer Penny James would succeed Paul Geddes as chief executive officer in May.

The insurer also said it was searching for a new finance chief.

Direct Line — whose brands include Churchill, Green Flag and Privilege — said in August that Geddes would step down in 2019 after a decade at the helm, as its first-half profit took a beating from the cold winter.

Geddes steered Direct Line through its split from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and its London listing in 2012, turning it into a blue-chip stock two years later.

James took over as Direct Line’s finance chief in March last year, joining from Prudential Plc.

Direct Line’s new CEO appointment comes as car insurance prices in Britain face a hit from potential trade barriers brought on by the country’s looming exit from the European Union would hurt prices in 2019.

Premiums in 2018 were pushed down by changes in the Ogden rate, used to calculate compensation for personal injuries, and the Civil Liability Bill, which includes reforms likely to reduce claims for whiplash injuries.

Companies such as Admiral Group Plc, RSA Insurance Group Plc, Direct Line, esure and Hastings Group Holdings Plc provide motor insurance for Britain’s highly competitive insurance sector.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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