On December 4 last, a colleague and myself were in Glasgow for a long-arranged meeting with members of Britannia Life's marketing management. On arrival, we were greeted by anxious hosts asking to postpone our meeting.
They informed us that, on the previous evening, Britannia Life had called a meeting of all UK staff to be held in Glasgow on the day of our visit. We were referred to a series of articles in the Glasgow Herald anticipating redundancies.
As we now know, Britannia Life announced on December 5 that it was withdrawing from the IFA market for its life insurance products and, as a result, some 400 staff members faced redundancy.
Was this the right decision?
Clearly, only Britannia has access to its detailed financial performance but Centaur Research, in a regular annual survey of IFA attitudes to salesforce performance is able to measure how favourably the IFA sector was reacting to Britannia Life, its salesforce and its products.
The IFA Sales Force Audit, the biggest interviewer-administered survey of IFAs, asked 1,100 IFAs on their attitudes to the salesforces of 18 major life offices, in October/November 1997.
The findings clearly show that IFAs regarded the Britannia Life salesforces very highly.
Britannia Life's penetration of the IFA market was very modest, being "dealt with" by one-third of IFAs. However, this was a increase of almost 50 per cent on levels the previous year.
In terms of service support, Britannia Life's salesforce appear to have been most effective. Britannia's average sales call was the second-longest at 36 minutes. Only Skandia at 38 minutes spends more time per call with the IFA.
However, these long calls were paying dividends because IFAs remembered their contents.
Often, call contents are not remembered but Britannia Life created high recall, particularly for pensions.
When IFAs were asked to award marks out of five for companies' salesforce performance, Britannia Life was the third-highest scorer, after Standard Life and National Mutual, equalling Skandia's score. Further, Britannia Life experienced the highest increase in rating of all 18 companies on a year-on-year comparison.
When IFAs were asked to rate sales consultants compared with the previous year, Britannia Life showed the second-highest rating, slightly below Eagle Star, and ahead of Clerical Medical.
When IFAs were asked to rate each salesforce in terms of how influential they were perceived to be, Britannia Life performs highly, ranked sixth, of the 18 companies that were considered. The overall conclusion has to be that, irrespective of any criticism of the performance of Britannia Life, its salesforce has made major improvements during the past year, placing it in a leading position with many far bigger life offices.
If given the opportunity, would Britannia Life's salesforce have been able to continue this process of imp- rovement?
For further information contact Henry Samuels or Jim Sinstadt at Cent aur Research on 0171-974 4000.