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14 May 2020 | 14:40

Direct Line gets female top duo as Gray becomes chair

(Sharecast News) - Direct Line has appointed non-executive director Danuta Gray as chair in a move that puts women in the top two jobs at the FTSE 250 insurer.

The household and motor insurer said Gray would take over from Mike Biggs on 4 August. She will be the company's first woman chair since the company's stock market listing in 2012.

Gray will oversee Chief Executive Penny James making them a rare female duo at the top of a leading UK company. James, the company's former finance chief, took over as CEO in March.

"Direct Line is a strong business with a superb culture, driven by a talented management team and outstanding, dedicated people," Gray said. "I am deeply grateful to Mike for his leadership of the board and look forward to working with Penny and the team as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and in the years to come."

Gray joined the Direct Line board in early 2017 after running Telefónica O2's Irish business. She chairs Direct Line's remuneration committee and is a former non-executive director of Old Mutual, PageGroup and Paddy Power.

Direct Line, whose other brands include Churchill and Green Flag, announced Biggs's departure in March as it posted a 12% decline in annual profit. Biggs has chaired the company since 2012 when it was spun off by Royal Bank of Scotland.

The company said on 6 May it expected to take a gross charge of £44m in travel claims from Covid-19, offset by a 70% drop in motor claims as people made fewer car journeys.

The company pulled its final dividend in April and said it would make no changes to staffing until autumn at the earliest as it monitored the effect of the coronavirus shutdown.

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