Norwich Union has regained its position as market leader in UK life business after a 43 per cent rise in business during the first half of this year.However, a decrease in persistency across NU’s UK pension and bond products cost the firm 35m compared with 5m in the corresponding period in the previous year. UK chief executive Mark Hodges says: “We will see lap-ses because we start with the biggest book but we are winning more than our share of new business and we want to be winners.” Worldwide operating profits rose by 27 per cent to 1.7bn on a European embedded value basis, with total UK life sales up by 43 per cent from 4.8bn to 6.9bn, helping Norwich Union take back the top spot from HBOS, with a market share of 11.8 per cent at the end of the first quarter. Individual pension sales leapt by 85 per cent from 1.2bn to 2.2bn on a present value of new business basis while group pension business rose by 19 per cent from 478m to 579m. Hodges says: “It is difficult to tell if the industry is seeing net new money but the increased level of market activity after A-Day is expected to carry on into 2007. “The biggest thing that we have done is to get our service back to a reasonable standard. It is still not anywhere near good enough but advisers who stopped using us are now coming back.” Hodges says improved service, which has seen the turnround of protection policies cut from an average 16 days last year to five days, helped protection sales grow by 11 per cent. NU says it will reveal further service improvements in October. Investment sales doubled to 1.1bn from 519bn but equ-ity-release sales fell by 7 per cent from 179m to 165m. Aviva is in discussions about charging up to 12 per cent of its 784m pension deficit to its with-profits funds.