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ABI concedes polarisation defeat

The ABI has raised the white flag to the Treasury and FSA without a fight over phase one of the current polarisation consultation.

The move has raised serious concern among IFAs that bigger life offices will steamroller through phase two without fighting the IFA cause.

At an ABI polarisation working party sub-committee, Money Marketing understands up to eight major players, including CGNU, Scottish Equitable&#39s owner Aegon, Scottish Widows and HSBC, voted overwhelmingly not to oppose plans to “liberalise” polarisation rules for Catmarked Isas and stakeholder.

Royal & Sun Alliance research and development leader Neil Southworth says the majority of life offices at the ABI meeting considered the proposals in phase one as being reasonable and beneficial to consumers.

ABI director general Mary Francis this week told MM the ABI is sympathetic to the Government&#39s review of polarisation and consider it important for stakeholder to be as widely available as possible.

The ABI and some life offices claim no vote was taken at last week&#39s meeting but confirm they will not be opposing the phase one proposals.

Maddison Monetary Management managing director Mark Howard says: “Phase two will be difficult. We really need these guys to come out batting hard. If they all roll over and die on phase two, then we really have something to worry about.”

Skandia pensions and Multifunds brand manager Peter Jordan says: “These offices are very supportive of the IFA market on the surface while at the same time beavering away behind closed doors to undermine the position of IFAs.”

Aifa director-general Paul Smee says: “There is probably a feeling in the provider community that it is a done deal. A line should be drawn under phase one and the ind-ustry should look to phase two, where the ball is very much in its court.”

Norwich Union sales and marketing director Peter Hales says: “There is no fundamental reason to reject this move. It would be seen to be protecting the status quo for the sake of it.”

The ABI is now looking to commission research into consumer attitudes to the various options for phase two.

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