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Press critical of life companies

Life insurance companies got more national press coverage than mortgage firms last year but most of the life coverage was negative, according to the Presswatch 2003 annual financial products report.

It says the reason why life insurance gained so much coverage was to do with problems in the sector such as the closure of life funds, endowment misselling, concerns over minimum solvency requirements and Equitable Life.

Nationwide is top of the list with 520 positive mentions over the year. HBOS is second with 406 positive mentions and Northern Rock is third with 397. All three firms maintained their positions from 2002.

Nationwide&#39s best press came from its credit card offering which, among other things, was praised as the best card to take on holiday. HBOS outstripped its rivals in terms of quantity of coverage but it had substantially less positive coverage than Nationwide.

Abbey rose from fifth in 2002 to fourth last year, swapping with Fidelity. Intelligent Finance rose from ninth to sixth place and Egg stayed seventh. Alliance & Leicester rose from 12th spot to eighth, Britannia Building Society leapt from 16th to ninth while Legal & General remained in 10th.

At the other end of the table, Equitable Life came bottom with just four positive mentions and 514 negative mentions.

Abbey&#39s rebranding exercise drew mixed responses when it announced in September that it intended to “turn banking on its head”.

PressWatch Media director Philip Lynch says: “The life insurance sector attracted a bigger share of the coverage but this was largely due to problems in the sector.”

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