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Larger than life

There has been media speculation in the last few days that Prudential and Aviva, Norwich Union’s parent firm, explored a merger back in 2004.

The resulting company would have had market capitalisation of around 30bn and dwarfed any other UK insurer for market share although other UK life offices with foreign parents would still have had greater clout globally.

There remains a reasonable business case for a merger, with Prudential strong in Asia and holding reasonable presence in the US, while NU has its general business and a respectable market penetration in Europe.

But, for IFAs, a merger would have brought disruption in the life and investment sections of the two groups where the greatest crossover exists. Although cost savings might have been achievable and then eventually passed on to policyholders and investors, advisers would probably have worried about the potential for admin problems and loss of talent in a merger and a lessening of competition in the parts of the financial services market that matter most to them.

It now appears that a merger is off the cards. Advisers will probably be relieved although they should also be aware that more life office consolidation may be around the corner.

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