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The week in Life and Protection

Speculation, speculation, speculation are the three words driving the life industry at present.

The speculation surrounds acquisitions, key personnel departures and the future direction of businesses which is causing an unusually active rumour mill to spin ever faster.

Swiss Re and Axa both appear to be playing Deal or No Deal at present with Lloyds TSB’s rebuffal of the duo’s approach to its subsiduary Scottish Widows.

Swiss Re seems to be determinedly pounding the acquisition trail after being gazumped by Resolution Life over the £3.6bn sale of Abbey’s life business in June. This, together with its acquisition of GE Life for £465m last week, indicates the reinsurer’s increasingly aggressive acquisition strategy.

Axa appears to be thinking along the same lines, having finally confirmed its purchase of Thinc Destini for £100m yesterday.

The two insurance giants are understood to have approached Lloyds TSB with an offer of £8bn which would have seen Axa take over Scottish Widows including Swip and Swiss Re buying its closed life book. But none of the parties involved would be drawn to comment on what they refer to as ‘market speculation’.

Prudential is getting its fair share of attention too, with a reshuffle of the management team. Distribution director Andy Briggs moves to Scot Wids to replace Nathan Moss in a similar position which has prompted UK chief executive Nick Prettejohn to take a more hands-on role in the Pru¹s life and pensions wholesale business.

Finance Director Keiran Coleman is also leaving the life company but Pru is keen to stress neither loss will change the direction of the business.

Payment protection insurance must have had more column inches written about it these past couple of months than ever before. But the glare of publicity has not been kind to the sector with Which? calling it an industry which is systematically dysfunctional.

Both the FSA and OFT have published damning reports into the sector and the OFT has reported it to the Competition Commission. Which? called for the FSA to name and shame the companies who are not complying with regulations and says it is a black day for PPI.

There is little room for speculation here. The results appear to be damningly conclusive and the sector must pull its socks up sharpish or face the wrath of the regulator.


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