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This week in Life and Protection

It was all about Norwich Union last week after the parent group Aviva announced it was cutting 4,000 jobs which came hot on the heels of the news that NU was withdrawing from the long-term care market.

Reaction to both pieces of news was met with anger and disappointment. While Amicus called the job cuts a betrayal of the workforce, the Nursing Home Fees Agency said NU had failed to realise the potential of the LTC market and it was disappointed by the insurer’s decision to withdraw.

Scottish Widows and Asda’s partnership came to an end last week. Scot Wids said it had taken a commercial decision to stop selling its protection products through the supermarket because it had not reached the critical mass it was expecting – although the provider would not reveal the projected sales figures or the number of policies it has actually sold through the chain.

Pension term assurance continues to cause confusion with the latest victims of potential misselling being those consumers that take advice on PTA from Icob advisers.

Direct Life & Pensions sales and marketing director Richard Verdin believes the FSA has missed a trick by allowing Icob advisers to sell the product because they are not regulated to advise on the suitability of pensions products – which PTA is classed under.

Verdin asks whether consumers are aware that they are not receiving advice on the product’s suitability even though they are talking to an adviser. The consumer may not be aware that they cannot go to the Financial Ombudsman Service if the product turns out to be unsuitable at a later date.

Consumers who have applied for enhanced protection on their pension funds could be rendered ineligible for this if they take out a PTA product and Verdin is concerned Icob advisers may be unaware of the impact this product can have on a customer’s pension arrangements.

But Lifesearch says this will affect such a minimal number of people that it is nothing to worry about. Head of protection strategy Kevin Carr says most Icob advisers will have checks in place to ensure this does not happen and says Icob advisers are aware of the impact it could have on pension provisions. This one could rumble on for a while.

On to the more interesting topic of gherkins. Namely, Norman Foster’s iconic Swiss Re tower which has been put up for sale with a price tag of £600m. The building struggled to find tenants initially which was rumoured to be because the tower was so synonymous with the Swiss Re name that other companies did not want to live in its shadow. It will be interesting to see whether another reinsurer or insurer is brave enough to take on the building.

Next door to the gherkin stands Richard Rogers’ Lloyd’s of London building which I had the good fortune to look around last week. It was like stepping back into the nineteenth century; you are not allowed to run or shout and all staff must keep their jackets on between the hours of 10.30 and 4.30. If you want to attract attention you are supposed to click your fingers at the person you want to speak to.

The dress code is also pretty strict and one female broker was reportedly refused entry by the waiters who uphold the rules at Lloyd¹s because she was wearing a purple leather mini skirt. The waiters – who are dressed in full livery costume – apparently said to the lady in question: “Marks and Spencer is just around the corner madam”, and she was forced to buy a new outfit before she was allowed into the building.

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