Aviva has announces a new bancassurance joint venture in Ireland between its Irish subsidiary Hibernian Group, and Allied Irish Banks (AIB). Aviva hopes the venture will create a leading force in the Irish life and pensions market and bring further opportunities for growth in the field.

The agreement creates a new channel for business that is complementary to Hibernian’s intermediary distribution network, by providing exclusive access to Ireland’s largest retail bank with over 280 retail outlets and 1.6 million customers.

The joint venture brings together Hibernian Life & Pensions, the third largest company in the Irish long-term savings market, and AIB-owned Ark Life Assurance, the fourth largest.

Hibernian will own 75% of the new combined operation, which generated combined sales on an annual premium equivalent basis of E226 million in 2004.

The management of the investments of current Ark Life policyholders, which totaled E2.6 billion as at December 31, 2004, will transfer to Hibernian Investment Managers, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Morley Fund Management, Aviva’s UK-based fund management business.

The exclusive bancassurance distribution agreement with AIB is for five years and may be renewed for further five-year periods up to 2031.

Philip Scott, executive director of Aviva Life International, said: Aviva is one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe. By leveraging our extensive international experience in bancassurance we aim to become the major player in the bancassurance market in Ireland. We are delighted to be in partnership with AIB where the combination of our long-term savings expertise and AIB’s retail strength positions us well for future growth.

The new joint venture will employ approximately 800 staff.