British insurer Aviva said the search for a new chief executive would take the rest of the year as it reported a 5 per cent drop in life insurance sales, reflecting tough conditions in its key European markets. The insurer, whose CEO Andrew Moss quit last week amid investor discontent over its underperforming shares, had long term savings sales of 7.5 billion pounds ($11.9 billion)in the three months to March, it said on Thursday. Executive Deputy Chairman John McFarlane, who has taken day-to-day charge until a new CEO is found, said the recruitment process would take the remainder of the year \"as we need to appoint the best person in the world available to us.\" Aviva\'s total worldwide sales for the first three months, including general insurance premiums, were 9.7 billion pounds, down 3 per cent. Life and pension sales in recession-struck Italy and Spain were down 23 per cent as consumers there saved and invested less. Aviva, which generated 40 per cent of its operating profit in mainland Europe last year, has been hit harder than its main British rivals by the euro zone debt crisis. The stock closed at 281 pence on Wednesday, down 5.3 per cent since the start of the year against a 1.2 per cent rise for the Stoxx 600 European insurance index, valuing the company at about 8.2 billion pounds.