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Life firms hit back at CA over with-profits attack

The life industry has struck back at high-profile criticisms of with-profits by the Consumers&#39 Association and the FSA.

Norwich Union has described the consumer watchdog&#39s report as ludicrous while Britannic Retirement Solutions says it is already operating the standards the CA is demanding.

In a scathing attack last week, the CA accused insurance companies of peddling 19th Century products which often lead to the detriment of consumers.

Norwich Union deputy actuary John Lister says: “The report is factually inaccurate in a number of ways. It may lead people do things that are not in their best interests. It would have been helpful for the CA to have taken advice from experts.”

The CA&#39s suggested improvements include life offices providing policyholders with better information on investment returns, actual charges and bonus smoothing accounts.

But BRS, formerly Evergreen Retirement Solutions, says its with-profits annuity already responds to these issues by providing policyholders with annual statements outlining exactly how the fund performed, what proportion is held back for smoothing and what amount is deducted for charges.

Corporate development director Bob Bullivant says: “We have already designed a with-profits product for the 21st Century by doing exactly what the CA is asking of with-profits.”

Tunbridge Wells Equitable Friendly Society chief executive David White says: “I am staggered by the CA&#39s comments. They have made sweeping generalisations that have no foundations. I resent being called unscrupulous and shark-like. We have no secrets. The FSA can come along and ask us what they like about our funds. We always show the underlying performance.”

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