Opinion  

My dad was a man from the Pru

Derek Bradley

Derek Bradley

My father worked for the ‘Pru’, joining them after the end of WW2.

The ‘Man from the Pru’ was him, a suited figure striding forward with that strange roof-shaped umbrella logo. And income tax for him was at 98 per cent.

This was the age of the mega (although that word did not exist then) insurer brands: Royal London, Norwich Union, Cornhill, Legal & General, Standard Life, Scottish Amicable, Scottish Life, Scottish Equitable [that’s enough 'Scottish' - Ed]. 

Most were mutual. Nobody questioned cost, life office expenses, bonus levels, solvency, maturity pay-outs or even commission. The consumer had to rely on the integrity of the insurer and their way of treating customers fairly, which in those days seemed pretty good indeed, and not a regulator or ombudsman.

And all without the technology of today, not even electronic calculators.

Endowment-based investments performed well, unit trusts were around, you could buy stocks and shares via your bank, but the plethora of investment firms we see today had not really landed on UK shores until ‘Big Bang’ ‘rocked up’ on the 27th October 1986.

So, with the latest announcement from Prudential are we seeing a continued slow decline among the largest life offices or are we entering a brave new world? 

I think neither. That 'Brave New World' was entered into back in 1986.

I was working in the City at the time and the financial services world, as we knew it changed forever from that date. The late starts, long lunches, early finishes were no longer fashionable.

Everybody started dressing like Gordon Gekko, huge mobile phones were 'hand borne', not hand held, the colourful LIFFE boys would strut their stuff around the Royal Exchange between trades and, generally, life seemed to have a very particular and agreeable buzz.

Over the past 30 years what was once a rather staid gene pool of public school chums in pin stripes, a veritable gentleman's club of friends and relatives, had morphed into a US-stylisation of business practices.

With it came dress down Friday, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City all linked with the considerable diversity introduced by foreign banks as plus points, but the downside was that it came with a certain killer instinct that would mean even your friends and colleagues were not guaranteed a particular benefit without a cost being attached.

But in the post Big-Bang world, as Mr Gekko would say, "If you need a friend, get a dog". In the feeding frenzy Barclays paid huge money indeed for Wedd, Durlacher and deZoete and Bevan, Deutsche Bank ate up Morgan Grenfell, Midland Bank (who are they?) bought W Greenwell and this then got digested by HSBC.