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Zurich will not go live with Omo initiative until Q3

Zurich has admitted it does not expect to go live with the Association of British Insurers’ open market option initiative for annuity transfers until the third quarter.

At a briefing this morning, the ABI announced that the system, developed by Origo, has pushed transfer times down from an average of 51 days to 8 days by streamlining applications.

It revealed that Zurich and Scottish Widows remain the only providers of the 16 involved not to go live with Options, despite the fact it kicked-off in early December.

Zurich defends the move claiming its processing times are already faster than those targeted by the scheme.

Pensions management director Dave Lowe says: “Zurich already makes open market option payments to receiving providers more quickly on average than the times targeted by the Options initiative.

“However, we can see the longer term benefits of participating in this industry scheme and have a team currently working on implementation. We expect to go live with this in Q3.”

A Scottish Widows spokeswoman says: “We have a strong service standard in place and are committed to the principles of the Options transfer initiative.

“We are currently working through the systems and process changes required to implement Options and the customer benefits this would generate, compared to our current high service standards.”

The ABI will extend the Options programme to pension to pension switches as well as occupational schemes from July this year and will follow with income drawdown contracts in 2010.

The ABI director of life and savings Maggie Craig says: “This is very good news for annuity customers, and a real success for the pensions industry. Pension and annuity providers, and the ABI, were determined to improve performance on transfer payment times. The Options initiative has got off to a great start in achieving this goal.

“Options directly benefits the vast majority of customers who want to move between annuity providers. It makes the whole process significantly easier for customers and advisers, meaning policies will be set up much more quickly than ever before. We aim to make further enhancements to the system soon, including extending its operation to other forms of pensions transfer.”

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