Friends gears up for year end with annuity launch

In the fourth quarter, the Friends Lifestyle Annuity will launch to the open market via industry portals.

This roll-out will cover about three quarters of the quotation traffic from intermediaries and will be followed by further portal launches in early 2014.

The value of new retirement income business has risen by 78 per cent to £64m, ahead of the group’s 2013 full year target by £14m.

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This has been driven by improved take-up of the enhanced annuity proposition, and Friends Life Investments achieving better returns from its investment strategy at lower cost.

Friends Life Group reported a 41 per cent increase in new business to its UK operations to £133m during the third quarter of this year.

Friends Life Group’s value of new protection business grew 14 per cent to £50m in the first three quarters of the year, with individual protection gaining momentum after the initial dip in the market resulting from the impact of gender neutral pricing.

Volumes of group protection business increased 5 per cent with value up 57 per cent on the same period of 2012 with the focus on critical illness and income protection.

However, the UK division’s annual premium equivalent dropped 3 per cent for both protection and corporate benefits, contributing to a total increase in new business volumes of 2 per cent.

The 36 per cent rise in value of new corporate benefits business to £19m was driven by improving the volume of auto-enrolment business taken on during the quarter.

The schemes of 97 employers have staged with the group and a further 100 are expected to follow by the end of 2013.

John Van Der Wielen, chief executive of Friends Life’s UK and International divisions, said: “The energy we have devoted to developing our products has led to a strong performance during the quarter.

“We are building momentum in the UK, where the value of new business grew 41 per cent, with retirement income up 78 per cent; corporate benefits up 36 per cent and protection up 14 per cent.

“The group’s financial discipline has enabled continued progress on cost reduction and we have already achieved our full year cost savings targets.

“Taken together, we’re optimistic for the fourth quarter and expect to make further progress against the backdrop of an improving economic environment.”