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Business Comment

James Moore: Resolution tried to be a beast but settled for the crumbs

Outlook So it's exit stage west for Clive Cowdery and his mini-me John Tiner. The shiny-suited salesman and his gamekeeper-turned-poacher pal (he used to run the financial watchdog) have bid goodbye to the beast they created. Beast? Well that's what it was supposed to be anyway. Mr Cowdery convinced some of the City's top institutions he could create a £10bn super-insurer using Friends Provident as his platform.

They lapped up his spiel, even to the extent of waving through the eye-popping fees charged by his Guernsey-based management company, and Friends was his.

Let's see what this chappie can do for us!

That's when things got complicated. At various times his Resolution was linked to follow-up deals with Prudential and Aviva. Gobbling up the UK business of either would have created a titan, but they weren't playing. The City was happy for Mr Cowdery and Mr Tiner to take the crumbs from the table but not the family silver. Oh no.

Those crumbs included the UK life business of Axa followed by Bupa Health Assurance in 2011 after which Resolution said its UK life project was complete, while bemoaning the lack of opportunities.

Which now leaves us with Friends Life, in other words Friends Provident with a couple of bits added and a couple of bits taken away. It's cut some costs, and claims to be fighting fit. But as Shore Capital's Eamonn Flanagan has pointed out, what you have here is basically a bog-standard life insurer. One that has been making promises about progressive dividend policies and new-business generation that it might find tough to keep.

As for Mr Cowdery, he's off to the States to see if he can work a similar trick where there are still a lot of zombie life insurers. Who knows, he might even be able to find some brass among the muck over there.