Mr Pennant-Rea, who famously had to leave the Bank of England in 1995 after a "kiss-and-tell" newspaper story about an extra-marital liaison conducted in the bank governor's dressing-room, will succeed Tim Melville-Ross, who retires after 13 years on the board, the past six as chairman.
The departure was also announced yesterday of Royal London's finance director Stephen Shone, 55, after 13 years. He follows John Deane, 51, who headed up Royal London's intermediary business but who left the group in June after five years. Both had been seen as potential successors to chief executive Mike Yardley, who retired last year.
However, the job went to external candidate Phil Loney, former head of general insurance and then life and pensions at Lloyds, who took over 14 months ago with a "golden hello" of £1.28m.
The chairman's job, worth £198,000 a year, will help Mr Pennant-Rea fill the gap left by the chairmanship of the Henderson fund group, which yesterday announced he would step down next May after seven years.