Aviva helps out customers hit by storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge

Insurance giant Aviva said it has provided support to thousands of customers after the recent UK winter storms.

Aviva said it responded quickly to settle claims after flooding caused by storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge

​The firm is facing a £70m bill for flooding and damage whilst the coronavirus outbreak has hit its Asian and Italian businesses.

The group has received weather-related calls from 13,000 customers and stressed it is responding quickly by helping to fix damaged properties and using the latest technology to settle claims after Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge ravaged many parts of Yorkshire, the North and the Midlands.

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Aviva employs around 2,000 people at its life and general insurance business in York and about 1,500 at its life and health insurance operation in Sheffield.

The insurer said the coronavirus outbreak presents a new uncertainty in the outlook for 2020 and it is testing contingency plans for staff to work remotely if needed.

Aviva said it is early days in assessing the impact on the business of the outbreak, but activity has been knocked across its Asian and Italian businesses and it has received around 500 travel claims so far and paid out £500,000.

Chief executive Maurice Tulloch said the group is "well prepared - we're ready to respond".

Full year results showed a 6 per cent rise in operating profits for 2019 to a record £3.2bn as new business rose 2 per cent to £1.2bn.

Mr Tulloch said the results showed signs that the overhaul at the group is starting to pay off.

"In 2019, we set out our priorities and financial targets, strengthened our leadership team and remained focused on helping our customers prepare for a better future," he said.

"We've made good progress, but there is much more to do."

The group made savings of £72m in 2019 under a programme to eventually cut costs by around £300m a year.

In June the firm announced plans to axe 1,800 jobs, just months into Mr Tulloch's tenure at the top.

The group confirmed that around 1,200 of these job cuts have been made so far.

Aviva said at the time that savings will also be made across central costs, contractor and consultant spending, a reduction in project spending and in other areas.

Mr Tulloch also revealed a structural shake-up in November and plans to sell off its Hong Kong arm, but said it would keep businesses in Singapore and China.

Analyst Nicholas Hyett at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “CEO Maurice Tulloch has set himself the rather unambitious goal of 'running Aviva better'. However, with record operating profits this year the results are rather more impressive.

"Cost control seems to be driving this year’s outperformance, but there’s good news on the revenue front too. Aviva Investors is attracting new assets, premiums are up in General Insurance – which has also sorted out last year’s Canadian debacle – and inflows are rising in the Life and Savings business. The net result of all that is a very healthy Solvency position which gives the business options.

"However, if we had a gripe with Aviva before today it’s that the path to growth beyond improved efficiency is unclear, and we’re not sure these results put that to rest. Despite significant streamlining over recent years the current set up still feels like a collection of well performing but disparate businesses.”