Norwich Union insurer Aviva has paved the way for a smooth transfer of power in its boardroom by appointing a City grandee as its new chairman.

Lord Sharman of Redlynch will pick up the reins on New Year's Day from longstanding chairman Pehr Gyllenhammar whose deal- making skills helped create the world's fifth largest insurance group.

The appointment of the 62-year-old was widely expected in the City and comes as today Aviva posts its half- year results, which are expected to show profits of £1.19 billion.

Best known as the former boss of accountants KPMG, Lord Sharman has been on the board of Aviva since the start of this year.

He chairs media buying agency Aegis and is a nonexecutive director of FTSE 100 companies BG Group and Reed Elsevier, as well as sitting on the supervisory board of Dutch bank ABN Amro.

He is also the deputy chairman of Group 4 Securicor, but is due to retire from this role later this year.

Expressing delight at his new role, Lord Sharman said: "Aviva is a company with drive, ambition and the highest standards of professionalism. I am looking forward with much enthusiasm to contributing to Aviva's continued growth." Mr Gyllenhammar is bringing the curtain down on a career that saw him oversee the merger of Commercial Union with General Accident in 1998 to form CGU.

This marriage was followed two years later by the merger of CGU with Norwich Union to create Aviva. Mr Gyllenhammar said Lord Sharman had an outstanding track record in international finance.

He will work alongside chief executive Richard Harvey.

"The board and I are confident that a combination of his wide-ranging experience and Richard's proven leadership skills will ensure that a first rate team is in place," he said.