Axa has appointed Claudio Gienal to take over as chief executive of UK and Ireland.

Gienal will take the reins at the French insurance powerhouse from Amanda Blanc, who in April announced she was jumping ship for rival Zurich.

In his new role, Gienal will lead the executive team as well as overseeing all the UK and Ireland business units.

He has been chief strategic development officer at Axa for just over a year. Gienal will start in his new role at the beginning of September.

Before joining Axa, Gienal was at Zurich for the best part of a decade, where he held a number of senior roles including chief operating officer for the UK and CEO of Zurich Life Switzerland.

“Claudio is a leader who brings focus and collaboration, a strong and straight forward approach and an understanding of our UK business,” said Scott Wheway, chairman of Axa UK.

“I am confident he is the right person to take the UK and Ireland business forward, to deliver on our Ambition 2020 strategy, which remains unchanged, and to shape with the executive team our strategic focus up to 2025 and beyond,” Wheway added.

“I am delighted to take up the role of CEO of Axa UK and Ireland and I can’t wait to get started,” Gienal said.

“The UK business has a strong track record on innovation and is working hard to embrace the future of an ever-changing insurance industry,” he went on.

“The business also has a real focus on diversity and inclusion among its staff and wants to foster greater trust with its customers, two issues which are close to my heart.”

Gienal’s appointment follows the carrier’s $15.3bn acquisition of Bermudian (re)insurer XL Catlin in March.