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Tesco ditches NU for Direct Line

Tesco Personal Finance has dropped its controversial link-up with Norwich Union as life and general insurance product provider, replacing it with Direct Line.

In assessing the pitches of various providers, Tesco PF says NU was unable to provide the speed of processing and customer interfacing it requires to drive its business forward.

NU attracted criticism from the IFA sector – in particular from Sesame – in 2003 for the Tesco deal which saw its customers offered cheaper rates than possible through the IFA channel. NU argued then that the only reason Tesco was able to offer cheaper rates was because it did not offer advice and because it rebated commission to clients.

Direct Line is due to take over for Tesco in February 2006. The move effectively brings Tesco Personal Finance in-house as Direct Line is owned by Tesco PF’s joint-venture partner Royal Bank of Scotland.

The supermarket says the connection with RBS was not the overriding reason as to why Direct Line won the deal. Tesco also announced this week that it will be selling investment bonds and index-linked savings certificates through National Savings & Investments.

Norwich Union head of media relations James Evans says: “We decided after the repitch that we could not commit to the level of investment in the way that Tesco wanted, without it having an impact on other development plans.”

Tesco Personal Finance media relations manager Stuart Neill says: “We are look- ing at processing speed and developing further. NU has priorities elsewhere. Direct Line has the quickest pro- cesses in the markeplace and is consistent with Tesco PF’s proposed business model.”

Lifesearch senior technical adviser Kevin Carr says: “NU’s product range is average in terms of quality and is not always competitive on price. NU have suffered service issues in recent months but if they refused to become cheaper while addressing these issues or if they have decided to provide greater support to the advisory channel, then we believe NU deserve praise.”

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