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A day in Windsor Life

I’m getting used to putting in calls to Windsor Life’s PR team at the moment due to the volume of complaints Money Marketing is receiving from disgruntled advisers.

The Swiss Re-owned firm is clearly struggling with the transfer of Tomorrow’s back book of pensions business, which was completed in December.

Advisers have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of communication with Windsor Life, which they say has not returned calls and has repeatedly failed to carry out transfers.

Furthermore, Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail was so incensed at the poor service to over 30 of HL’s clients that he will be complaining to the FSA.

McPhail says he may also raise the issue with the Association of British Insurers because he thinks the voluntary code that providers sign up to is not working.

He says: “Windsor Life is not concerned about its reputation because it is not writing new business. The only effective way to focus its mind is to fine the firm.”

Jamieson Financial Management principal Bruce Jamieson is similarly fed-up and says that Windsor Life failed to send the money for an annuity at the beginning of December and still has not done so.

He says: “The company really does seem to be in total meltdown. It is impossible to get any kind of communication at all.”

Norwest Consultants principal Harry Katz says it is not news to him that Windsor Life’s service is bad. He says he has dealt with the firm for the past two decades and that it has always had “abysmal” service.

But Windsor Life maintains that its “normally excellent levels of service” will return to normal once the backlog is cleared. It says it has implemented additional call-centre capacity to cope with the backlog.

Onto Legal & General. It has been busy this week with the announcement that it intends to purchase Suffolk Life as well as announcing its results for 2007.

The news was not so positive on the results front as L&G was hit by revised longevity assumptions and losses from the floods last summer leading to a 26 per cent fall in worldwide operating profit to £912m.

On the UK life and pensions side, profits fell by 17 per cent from £874m in 2006 to £720m last year.

But things could be looking up for the insurer with its proposed £62m acquisition of Suffolk Life.

L&G has made it clear that it wants to particularly focus on the savings part of the business in 2008 and, more specifically, to grow its pensions proposition in the mass affluent market.

Owning Suffolk Life means the insurer can now offer both an uninsured Sipp and an insured Sipp to its customers, predicted to boost its market share to 10 per cent.

Suffolk Life has accepted the offer following a strategic review of its business undertaken by Fenchurch Advisory Partners.

The Sipp specialist will be retaining its brand and will continue to be based in Ipswich.

There are to be no redundancies but there may well be board changes, to be announced in due course.

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