RSA said its profit jumped by a quarter as the general insurer benefitted from strong trading in the UK and Scandinavia.

It said annual operating profit lifted 25% to £655m compared to 12 months ago, as the group comes to the end of a three-year turnaround programme.

The FTSE 100 business, which runs the More Than brand in the UK, also turned in a record underwriting profit leaping 73% to £380m in the period. Shares lifted more than 4% to 602.5p in early trading.

RSA is run by former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester who has streamlined the group since he took the helm in 2014, after a £200m black hole was found in its Irish business.

Chief executive Hester said: "In 2016 RSA took major strides forward, moving seamlessly from 'successful turnaround' to organic outperformance.

"Our ambition now is to drive RSA's performance towards 'best in class' levels. Industry and financial market conditions will remain tough.

"We plan to outperform through continuing self-help measures on customer service, underwriting and costs."

The group said its Scandinavia operations in Norway and Denmark contributed £311m to operating profit, while the UK accounted for £259m.

Hester said: "2016 was a year of volatile financial markets, testing both capital resilience and profits."

But he also added that the lower pound since June Brexit vote had helped the group as around 70% of its operating profit is earned outside the UK.

Under Hester RSA sold off a number of international units in Latin America and Russia, and focused on key markets in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and Canada.