THE boss of major Dorset employer LV= is leaving.

The savings and insurance business said Richard Rowney would be standing down as chief executive and board member on December 31.

His departure after 13 years with the County Gates-based business comes months after he oversaw the sale of its general insurance division to Allianz.

LV= chairman Alan Cook will become executive chair, subject to regulatory approval, until a successor is appointed.

Mr Cook said: “Richard Rowney has served LV=’s members, customers and staff with great distinction over the last decade and I thank him for all he has achieved.

“As managing director life and pensions he turned LV= into one of the UK’s leading specialist retirement and protection providers. Most recently as chief executive he led the sale of LV=’s general insurance business and the process to convert from a friendly society to a company limited by guarantee.

“The board and Richard have agreed that the time is right for him to step down. The process to appoint a new chief executive is now underway and we expect to conclude this before the end of the year.

Bournemouth-born Mr Rowney returned to Dorset in 2007 to become LV='s chief operating officer, before becoming chief executive in 2016.

Richard Rowney said: “After 13 memorable years with LV= and the successful sale of our general insurance business to Allianz, now felt like the appropriate time to step aside and seek a new opportunity outside of the society.

“Our members continue to enjoy the benefits of being part of a strong and successful mutual organisation and I look back with pride at the strong and trusted brand that our people have worked so passionately to create.”

As a youngster, Mr Rowney helped his family run the Bourne Dene Hotel on Bournemouth’s East Cliff. “Some of my earliest memories were being the person who would greet the guests as they arrived and I would take their bags up to their rooms for them,” he told the Daily Echo in 2016.

“It does teach you a lot of basic discipline of being there on time, being able to juggle a lot of different things, working under pressure.”

He studied geography at the University of Leeds. After accidentally picking up careers information about Barclays instead of British Gas Exploration, he decided to fill in the form anyway and began a career that saw him to a Masters in Business Administration and work at Canary Wharf and Leeds.

But he “fell out of love with Barclays” before the financial crisis and returned to Dorset.

In its last results in August, LV= revealed a jump in like-for-like profits for the first half of the year, despite a downturn in sales for its life and pensions business.

Pre-tax profits hit £35million for the six months to June 30, up 191 per cent from £12m in the same period in 2018.

Nevertheless, the company said that its life and pensions division, one of its largest arms, has faced "tough trading conditions" in 2019.

The unit saw sales slide by 26.8 per cent to £710m, from £970m in the same period last year. Its savings and retirement business also saw sales fall, by 31.5 per cent to £560m, amid a continued decline in the pensions market.

The decision to sell its general insurance division to Allianz comes as the sector consolidates. Allianz also bought Legal & General's insurance business earlier this year, making it the second largest insurance provider in the UK.