The UK government is to appoint Otto Thoresen, acting director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), as chairman of the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST).

Thoresen, who has led the UK’s insurance lobby group since 2005, was also chief executive at Aegon Group between 2005 and 2011.

He replaces Lawrence Churchill, who steps down in February 2015 after five years in the role.

NEST, the government-backed master trust, was created for the rollout of auto-enrolment, operating with a public-service duty to accept all employers regardless of size.

It was created under UK legislation and backed by a loan from the UK Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

Thoresen’s current insurer members operate in a direct rival capacity to NEST, with some offering contract-based defined contribution workplace savings vehicles for auto-enrolment.

Churchill was appointed in 2010 and oversaw the beginning of auto-enrolment in 2012 that led to NEST housing more than 1.5m savers from more than 9,000 employers.

Thoresen will be replaced by Huw Evans, current deputy director general at the ABI.

Pensions minister Steve Webb and outgoing chair Churchill both highlighted the wealth of experience of Thoresen, who has held a number of senior roles at insurance companies and led a government review into generic financial advice in 2008.

Webb said: “I would like to thank Lawrence for his dedication in making NEST a reality and for successfully steering it through its early years.

“I am confident Otto’s appointment will ensure NEST continues to effectively support the introduction of automatic enrolment.”

Churchill added: “I have relished my time at NEST, but, now my term is drawing to a close, I am absolutely delighted I will be handing over to somebody of this calibre.”

Thoresen said he was delighted for the opportunity to work with the NEST trustee board.

“NEST has a key role to play in the future of pension provision,” he said.

“It has been a privilege to lead the ABI, and, while it will be a personal wrench to leave the organisation, this opportunity at a key stage in the delivery of pension reform was an opportunity I couldn’t pass by.”

Thoresen said his chairmanship at NEST would also allow him focus more on his charitable work.

The chairman will dedicate two and half days to NEST and is remunerated just over £90,000 (€113,000).