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UK life brands are a dying breed

Aviva shook things up this week by announcing that the Norwich Union brand name is to be phased out in the next two years.

The life office said it is looking to unite under one worldwide brand name to compete globally and the Commercial Union Poland and Hibernian brand names will also be disappearing.

Marketing director David Barral says the investment arms will be the first to change branding, with the NU general insurance and life arms to follow.

He says: “This is not a move that we have taken lightly as it is a defining moment in the company’s history. This is more than a logo change. We want to make sure we bring the best parts of the Norwich Union business along in continuing to build Aviva’s own global brand.”

This seems to be becoming increasingly commonplace with UK brands such as Sun Life and Scottish Equitable being phased out in favour of global brands like Axa and Aegon.

Advisers at the Money Marketing Retirement Summit in Monte Carlo were pragmatic about the move.

Falcon Group commercial director Stephen Gazard said: “I can see why the decision has been made. But clearly within the UK market and the broker market, NU is by far the more recognised brand.”

Tenet Group distribution and development director Keith Richards says: “I am surprised but not surprised at the same time. The Norwich Union brand is quite a powerful consumer brand within the UK. Will it impact? Probably not. I doubt it will matter to the IFA community. It is only a matter of time before people get used to it. Look at Aegon and Scottish Equitable. I think Abbey and Santander are on their way to doing the same.”

Out in Monte Carlo, the Money Marketing Retirement Planning Summit small talk was all about Conservative shadow pensions minister Nigel Waterson, who flew out to give a speech before flying back to the Commons for a vote that evening.

Waterson warned that if issues such as means-testing are not addressed then pension personal accounts could be the next Terminal 5 debacle.

He said that personal accounts are not a magic bullet, which will solve the pensions crisis and warned of the unintended consequences if certain issues are not sorted out.

Waterson said: “We certainly do not want a Terminal 5 moment when it comes to personal accounts. My party wants this reform package to be a success but we don’t want to inherit a system set up to fail if we get into Government.”

The following day, independent pensions consultant Ros Altmann spoke about her concerns that the Government is destroying pension provision in the UK.

Altmann said the shortsightedness of the pensions strategies adopted by the Government means that we are heading for a pensions disaster and that personal accounts may only serve to make things worse.

Altmann said: “The state pension is too low and too complex. Means-testing undermines private pensions and the mass market has been pushed out of pensions. With personal accounts, levelling down is the biggest threat. I cannot believe that there is a political consensus around personal accounts. We are sleepwalking into another mess.”

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