Personal PensionMay 15 2013

Sesame sell-off still high on Friends Life agenda

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ByKevin White

Speaking as parent company Resolution Group announced its interim management statement for the first quarter of 2013, group chief executive Mr Briggs said the group’s strategic review into its ownership of the network and support services group was still at an “early stage”.

Sesame confirmed in February that Barclays Capital had been appointed to review options for the firm, with Mr Briggs stating in March that IFA firms and networks were “best owned by entrepreneurs not FTSE 100 companies” as he gave his strongest indication to date that Resolution was set to dispose of the advisory group.

Commenting on the Resolution results, which reported a 9 per cent rise in the value of new business to £38m during the first quarter, driven by strong performance in the retirement sector, Mr Briggs said Friends Life had a “strong pipeline” of new auto-enrolment schemes, and expected “strong growth” in the sector during the second half of the year.

He said: “We are optimistic in terms of our outlook, and have had a successful year to-date, more than doubling the amount of companies we have signed up to auto-enrolment schemes compared to this time last year.

“We are finding that many employers are taking the longest possible time to organise their auto-enrolment schemes, but we are very pleased with our progress, potential new business, and our relationship with intermediaries in the sector.”

On the recent call for a single pensions regulator for auto-enrolment schemes, as proposed by the House of Commons’ work and pensions committee, Mr Briggs said: “I have never been particularly convinced by the need for one regulator.

“What we need is joined-up thinking between the government, regulators and providers, who all need to work collaboratively.”

Overall, Resolution reported a 18 per cent fall in UK sales during the first quarter, falling from £173m last year to £142m. It also reported a drop in profits at its international division from £13m to £7m.

Corporate benefits new business fell from £146m to £109m as the firm avoided competing “aggressively” at uncompetitive prices, Mr Briggs said.

Key results

• UK sales fell from £146m to 109m

• Group new business profits rose by 9 per cent to £38m for first quarter

• UK division’s value of new business rose by 30 per cent to £35m

• Profits in international division fall from £13m to £7m

Adviser View

Chris Dunston, chartered financial planner for Devon-based Artavia PFS, said: “Like most providers I think that Friends Life is struggling to find a way between regulatory and government requirements. Some of these providers are not offering good enough terms for their auto-enrolment schemes and are suffering as a result. Maybe this is why not enough firms are embracing auto-enrolment.”