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Co-op looks to sell life arm to Royal London – 670 jobs to go

The Co-operative Group is making 670 financial advisers redundant as it announces plans to sell its life arm to Royal London and a seven-year distribution partnership deal with Axa Wealth.

The Co-op has entered into exclusive talks with Royal London to sell its life insurance subsidiary, including the £15bn of assets in its Long Term Business Fund and The Co-operative Asset Management which manages the fund.

The announcement follows a strategic review of Co-op’s life and savings business. Staff were notified of the move at meetings this morning.

It will see the withdrawal of of Co-operative Financial Services’ field-based advisory team, leading to 670 job losses.

A further 82 branch-based advisers will offer Axa products, under a partnership deal between Axa and Co-op which will see Co-op’s branches offering Axa’s investment, pension and life assurance products. Axa will also deploy 325 advisers across the branch network.

CFS’ general insurance arm was outside of the scope of the strategic review.

The deal echoes the existing arrangement CFS subsidiary Britannia Building Society has with Axa.

CFS launched a strategic review of its life and savings business in October 2009, after merging with Britannia in August 2009.

The move follows the sale of Co-op Bank’s IFA arm to Ashcourt Rowan Financial Planning last September.

CFS chief executive Neville Richardson says: “We have taken the time needed to consider all our options and find a solution which is ultimately in the best long term interests of our customers and members.   

“We understand that such news may be difficult for impacted colleagues and we have not reached this outcome lightly.  However, we were faced with rising regulatory costs in a business which was increasingly becoming sub-scale.  This move supports our strategy to focus our specific attention on our banking and general insurance areas, where we have a growing and strongly differentiated competitive position.

“With regards to our negotiations with Royal London, our exclusive talks remain ongoing but I genuinely believe that a mutual solution for our life fund would be in the best interests of policyholders and colleagues alike.”   

Unite national officer David Fleming says:”The employees potentially affected by this news will be deeply concerned and upset. Unite has already made clear that the decision to cease to be a provider of life assurance products is a very sad and monumental moment in the history of CFS and the whole of the co-operative movement.

“Unite is now pushing for redeployment options wherever possible and to where this is not possible, for all involved to be treated fairly during the process.”


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There are 49 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. As ex-CIS staff, I find this news very sad, but probably not hugely surprising. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, and I think it’s unfair to suggest management haven’t explored every other option.

    Good luck to everyone affected.

  2. Being coming for a long time, directionless leadership and a move away from their core market with a lack of focus over many years. A shambles, they need to drop co-operative from their name because what it means and what they stand for are at odds.

  3. “However, we were faced with rising regulatory costs”
    WEll DONE FSA & RDR, you must all be feeling very puffed up at canary towers this morning.

  4. “However, we were faced with rising regulatory costs in a business which was increasingly becoming sub-scale.” Another nail in the coffin for all but the wealthy to have someone to talk to about protection.

    The cost of regulation that ‘benefits’ the people who most need advice is ensuring they are the very group who will be abandoned by the industry.
    How long will it be until we hear news stories about people who have failed to take elementary protection cover and have left themselves and their loved ones vulnerable to the slings and arrows of fortune.

  5. Shame to see them go, the commercial reality of RDR is looming and the majority of these guy’s are Diploma qualified!
    So that is thousands more people without access to an Adviser.
    Still that is LESS money in fees to the FSA, are the remaning investment authorised IFA’s to pick up tab or will the FSA reduce their staff numbers accordingly?

  6. chris wilkinson 15th July 2011 at 12:55 pm

    As and ex CIS adviser I am glad I was all part of it, good training, huge base of customers and a good atmosphere to work in. Shame it’s all gone!

  7. You can’t pin this on the FSA and RDR…. that’s something that the entire industry have been aware of for years and not the true cause of this

  8. I, also, imagine much of this was attributable to RDR. For these poor people that will lose their jobs thank you Hector; while you enjoy living off the rest of us.

  9. Looks like redundancy for all L&S staff then. Wonder if it is gardening leave straight away….

  10. What a great shame. Another coup and cock-up for the Government and FSA to celebrate. Clearly the Government, FSA and banks are working hand in hand. It is plainly obvious that what they want is for the general public to invest their monies with ONLY the banks, who, let’s face it, are the ones who are really running,m and ruining this country.
    IFAs, advisers and agents have been a sitting target for years. Rules, Regulation, qualifications, goal posts being moved time and time again. what is next on their agenda? Amazing how Esate Agents and car salesmen go unregulated when the IFA gets pummelled consistently.
    IFAs and Advisers alike should form a massive protest, and let this Government know that you’ve had enough. Let this Government hear you. Insurance Companies should have protested against Regulation in the first place.

  11. Welcome to the realworld of being IFA.
    Pity clients wont have access to SALESMEN anymore.

  12. The FSA killed industrial branch sales, the backbone of working class protection for a century.

    RDR has played its part in killing this fine institution and the FSA should hold its head in shame.

    It’s not just the staff at the CIS, its the thousands of widows and orphans “yet to be” that RDR will be memorial to and its epitaph should read:

    “Unprotected because of regulatory ineptitude”.

    Tomorrow we shall see what the TSC committee has to say about the Retail Distribution Review and we will hope that it is still not too late to pull back from this regulatory abyss.

  13. We pushed hard for a redundancy deal 5 years ago when the majority of us left, it was not to be!

    I sincerely hope those that hung on now get a good deal, severance pay and enhanced pensions. You can bet the “Chief Office Management” will!

  14. Re anonymous 1.20.
    Pompus idiot, IFA sell themselves to obtain a fee.
    You either make things or sell things and IFA’s don’t make things………..

  15. I hope they get treated well. As for the smug peoples comments here about salesmen….dont be an idiot you are supposed to be profesional. A lot of people who worked for the co-op were good and actualy ethical. I know advisors who have not done buisness as it was not in the customers best interest. Unlike one wide boy of an IFA who talked a lot of rubbish and tried to get me to take products that would not have served me well at all.

    I shall be taking all my money out and moving it to wherever my co-op advisor moves to…

  16. CIS gave me my break into financial services back in 1998 and I will always be grateful to what was a wonderful company to be involved with. Who today would give a 30yr old engineer the opportunity to retrain to be a financial adviser. Today as an IFA who is well on the way to becoming chartered I want to say thanks for memories and the opportunity. CIS..RIP

  17. The Co-operative founders would be disgusted at this news. In a time where all the other institutions are pulling out of the market leading to financial exclusion to all but the wealthy the Co-operative should have been there to take up the slack.

    Job well done Neville.

  18. Derek Wilkinson 15th July 2011 at 2:00 pm

    So sad to hear this news, Having worked at CIS as an advisor for a long number of years I enjoyed my time there immensly, Top training and got me in the position i am in today

  19. Russell Greenock 15th July 2011 at 2:14 pm

    1.20pm I think you are missing the point in that a large part of the Co-op customer base will not access and pay fees to IFA’s for advice leaving them excluded from Financial Products, which is the opposite if what the FSA want to achieve. As with all organisations there will be good and bad advisers, but better to receive advice from an honest salesman than a dishonest IFA. Once again the most vulnerable in society will be left out because I am sure any self respecting IFA would not waste their time on anything other than high net worth clients. From your post it is obvious that you are a very caring and compassionate person and exactly the type I would like to receive advice from.

  20. CIS gave me an intro financial services, with an agency back in the 1980,s and I will always be grateful to what was a good company to be involved with.Excellent training when FPC’s were introduced. Unfortunately they became a bit of a dinosaur as time went on .Today as an Wealth Management Consultant who is well on the way to becoming chartered I want to say thanks for memories and the opportunity.

  21. Don’t be glum everyone, MAS is on hand to fill the void with its ‘free’ ‘advice’.

  22. Oh dear, another long established business bites the dust. RIP CFS
    I hope all those affected find employment elsewhere and soon. I would expect many to seek new opportunites OUTSIDE of Financial services for obvious reasons. All that money spent on training for Diploma’s wasted and who pays. The consumer!! Yes

    If the advisers who write in hear, fear their voice is not being heard, then lobby your MP . Better late than never

  23. 15th July 2011 at 3:15 pm

    as a small network in the East Midlands we would welcome any CIS guys, we know you are well trained!

  24. Alistair Blyth 15th July 2011 at 3:17 pm

    As one door closes…..
    If there are any Diploma Qualified CIS adivisers in the Edinburgh area looking to join an RDR ready IFA firm, I would be interested in talking to you. Email ‘’ to get in touch.

  25. Gareth E K Smith 15th July 2011 at 3:23 pm

    To those that have lost there jobs today all the best for the future. It happened to me at Britannic 10 years ago and to be honest the best thing that could have happened, no more * mandatory appointments a week, no sales manager given you the be “proactive not reactive” garbage.

    After reading the comments to those that think that at a tied insurer they are a financial adviser you are deluding yourself, you are the insurance man who flogged insurance products, I still get called insurance man by some in my area. I have no shame in admitting that my job at the time was a salesman whose role was to persuade people, mainly the working class to put a bit off money away for the future in mainly small IB endowments. The trouble is, this large chunk of the population have not been saving and we due to regulation have been replaced by unregulated doorstep lenders.

    The demise at Britannic started with them trying to make generally nice guys into “financial advisers” with fancy lap tops producing “blue sky solutions”, scripted sales patterns to “disturb” clients into buying over priced life & CIC cover etc, this is fine for the “typical IFA client” but not the typical home service client, a client of mine said why have you brought your tool box referring to lap top, when all he wanted was to save a fiver a week.

  26. Spot on Gareth, same happened to me 10 years ago with Pearl Assurance but experience when I left to join Allied Dunbar (ZURICH) the training camp they had in Swindon made me a better adviser. I now am a self-employed Mortgage and Protection adviser and very passionate about the advice I give.

  27. This news is not unexpected. The Co-operative has been focussing upon becoming a banking institution ever since they took over Britannia. This is now not a time to worry about what has happened, but the time to start thinking about the futures for those losing their jobs and their families. I am ex CIFA and lost my job in October 2010. If any CIS advisers are concerned about not achieving RDR status, have a look at for a non-regulated savings proposition that will keep you in the industry you love. Vacancies nationwide. Contact us via the website

  28. To the ‘real world’ chap, I ain’t no salesman. I have lost my job today but I am diploma qualified and I have an economics degree.

    I will more than likely leave the industry for good but I’m sure I could manage the IFA role of giving good advice to some not to mention the constant churning of lump sum business or should that be ‘re-brokering’

  29. mark dodd now redundant 15th July 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I’d just like to say thankyou to a good company who have supported me for the 4 years I have given. Change was inevitable however I believe we have received a fair deal.

    Thanks again and good luck to all my colleagues and hope the coop group continues.

  30. Because you are diploma qualified and have an economics degree does that make you somebody special rather than a salesman.

  31. Thanks for 7 great years. A truly fantastic company to work for and has taught me a tremendous amount. I came with nothing and leave with a diploma.

    Not bad, not bad at all.

  32. thanks for nothing coop and cheers regional managers bet you got a good pay off

  33. Martin Newton - City Investments 15th July 2011 at 7:24 pm

    To all of our ex-colleagues who have been made redundent today by the CFS….take heart that there will be a life for you in Financial Services (if you wish) after CFS. We left the company 6 years ago and have thrived as a firm of IFA’s covering the North West and provide all of our clients with levels of personal service we learnt at the Co-Op. If any of you would like to discuss your future then please feel free to contact us at City and we would love to speak to you. For those of you who don’t then all the very best for the future. Martin, Will and Carl

  34. sara hollingsworth 15th July 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I want to say THANK YOU co-op you were the only company to take me on with all my qualifications and no hands on experience. I am pleased to say the training was excellent I am in the top 150 advisers after only 18 months in the field and the redundancy package they are offering including full RDR support is excellent. I am sad as I would have liked to have stayed with CIS doing the job, however things move on and when one door shuts another opens. Good luck to us all, field sales and support staff who are also going. Keep ya chins up the world awaits, whatever we all end up doing. Also to the government advisers RDR is shutting the door on the normal man in the street which is such a shame, when one of the main aims is to protect the customer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who is going to pay out when people dont have enough life cover, dont have pensions and there savings are eaten into every year by inflation because they think a FTD of 3% PA is a good deal. Catch on you ministers its ok for you guys with your big pension plans and monthly salaries and expense accounts not the same for the vast majority of hard working normal citizens.


  35. What is going to happen to the 3.5 million customers that have CIS products? Is CFS going to abandon them or just sell them to Royal London like cattle.

    CFS an ethical organisation, you must be joking. They are just a small time bank that thinks its different when its not.

    Guess what’s going to be closed next? Any offers for Smile the internet Bank?

  36. Thank you CIS
    I have been an adviser with the Co-op since 1988. I have worked under good,
    excellent and outstanding managers. The training and support I have
    received has been first class. On 1st July myself, and 218 other Co-op
    advisers learnt that we had passed AFA 2 (a 91% pass rate). The severance
    package I have is fair and include support for moving on. During my career
    I have earned a decent living, worked with a great bunch of people. had a
    lot of fun and I can honestly say when returning to my car with a signed
    prop in my hand, I have left my clients financially in a better position
    than they were before I visited them. Very few of my clients are high net
    worth, they would not pay a fee for advice. and no IFA would consider it
    worth their time to come out of a call with a £10 a month FIB to protect a
    young family, unless they find a personal pension (with a guaranteed
    annuity rate) or a 226 they can transfer as well. The products I have been
    able to sell have not been the cheapest or the best, but they have been the
    best option for my clients as they will not be buying financial products on
    line, and they will not be paying hefty fees to receive advice. In the
    course of my studies for AFA I found some excellent web sites from
    providers that I can deal with directly and save paying a fee for advice..
    If I can invest in that way and have the pick of the market, beware, so can
    your high net worth clients. So please don’t bother to phone me chasing my
    redundancy cheque, I have a cunning plan.

  37. royden flemming 16th July 2011 at 8:50 am

    Again all the spout about in the best interests of the customers and members , but again no-one has bothered to consult the members or customers, which i am both. Neville will do nothing but destroy the co-opertative based on his own ambitions, this all fly’s in the face about what the co-operative movement is about.

    Shame on you

  38. Michael Charles 16th July 2011 at 11:16 am


    Welcome to the real world of being an IFA. Pity clients won’t have access to SALESMEN any more.

    Why don’t you put your name to it. There is many a WIDOW in the UK better off after being SOLD Life Assurance by A LIFE ASSURANCE SALESMAN than being ADVISED by an IFA to consider taking out Life Assurance but not having the SELLING SKILLS to do the deal.

    All these good SALESMEN from CFS will now join IFAs and the IFAs they join will be better off by having them.

    RIP CFS.

  39. So what does it matter?
    another nail in the coffin of financial services and less protection for the people.
    as long as compliance and FSA have a job that is all that matters.
    i think i will start selling vegetables-come to think of it they will soon be regulated by Brussels(sorry about the unintentional pun).
    Look out the UK and FSA the Europeans are coming!

  40. Think majority of cfs advisers would agree with you Paul. Co-op been a pleasure to work for. End of an era and time to move on, unfortunately.

  41. I have an honours degree, a Masters degree and have been Diploma qualified for 16 years. But the truth is, even with the best products and the best technical competence and a genuinely honest determination to serve the clients you meet, without some sales skills you’re ‘dead’.

    This country despises the word ‘salesman’. In America, good salespeople are revered. Why ? Because no matter how good your product, research and development team, engineers, scientists, service standards, administration etc etc – without a successful sales force the company will struggle to survive in a competitive world.

    The FSA is a quango living in a cocoon of self-righteousness, strangling the financial advice process with over-the-top bureaucracy and a civil-service mentality of box ticking.

    If the government wants to help restore a savings culture in this country and encourage people to look after themselves (using insurance products as necessary), it should disband the FSA, increase the ISA allowance to £20,000 per year, make anyone over the age of 65 exempt from income tax and CGT, bring back tax relief on ‘pure’ protection policies (including PHI)………

    You get the idea but the government and the FSA never will !

  42. The comment earlier pre-porting to be me is not. Although it is a shame that I may be losing my job I have nothing but gratitude towards the company. They have at all times tried to look after the customers and advisers. I will be leaving the company with a Level 4 qualification which the company helped me obtain. Thanks you CIS and it is a shame that it may now be over.

  43. ‘IFA sell themselves to obtain a fee.
    You either make things or sell things and IFA’s don’t make things………..’
    Sorry mate, but as an IFA for many years-
    I make my clients money
    I make my clients pay less tax
    I make my clients feel secure that in event of tragedy, they have no financial worries!

    There are good people and crooks in both camps, I have come accross numerous IFA’s who I would not describe by any other name.

    What is sad is as many have said, less choice for the consumer- but hey who the heck cares abiut them!

  44. Message from Hector Sants

    Can the last person out of financial services please turm off the lights

  45. To Michael Charles

    I did not post the comment but I do know where the person is coming from, the fact is that as an IFA we provide financial advice and that advice may or may not include a product.

    Investments are a case in point, as a CIS rep you are keen to sell a product to earn comission, but as an IFA we provide advice on the whole of the market including National Savings this is the reason why we charge fees to product reports and manage peoples portfolios. We still have to have sales skill because we have to sell are fees.

    I would agree with you that all protection policy are sold but they have to be right for the customer.

  46. geoffrey chaucer 17th July 2011 at 5:53 pm

    A sad say but not a suprise. I spent over 8 years as a agent as well as a DI. The old days were good but then we went to a points based system and agents were put under lots of saily pressure to sell,sell and sell. Advice didnt come into it.

    As for the sales managers. They became puppets of the regional manager. Kick the rep time. A sad day but it was a long time coming…. Good luck to all the reps. I reckon quite a few sales managers will be seeking alternative employment..

  47. I worked at the CIS for over 4 years as an FA, and from what I saw during this time, if it wasn’t for ‘switching’, over exagerating investment returns and not being open about fee’s I don’t think many of the FAs would have validated (never mind earn a decent living)….I’ve seen some of the top experienced advisors struggle to get through RO1, it makes you wonder what kind of advice they’ve been giving clients over the years……I really feel sorry for the managers and above who are now going to have to get propper jobs….

  48. CIS Agent. What a comedian you are, just to put you in the picture,
    Which company has the best results over the last 18 months for RDR.
    Ans. The COOP.
    What is the average pass mark in the finance sector,
    Ans 67%
    What is the COOPs average mark
    Ans 92%

    So wind your neck in and just remember you could have had in excess of £26,460 in Novembers pay,
    One last thing the COOP has not had” CIS Agents” for 6 years, they are all now have dip FA after there names, and as for the managers having to get “propper” jobs (ps it’s proper) 80% have been contacted by the big 5 banks to secure there knowledge and experience to drive the business forward with redeployment .

    Onwards and upwards

  49. David Anderson 20th July 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I hope this helps bail out Britannia Building Society. Good look at Royal London.

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