FSA lifts jobs freeze at Pru

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THE PRUDENTIAL has beentold it can recruit staff for its direct sales-force again for the first time since it was reprimanded by the Securities and Investments Board last year over methods used by some staff to boost their commission income.

These included selling second pensions to existing customers - rather than encouraging them to top up existing pension plans - meaning they incurred an additional set of charges.

They also advised non-taxpaying clients to invest in a Prudential Savings Account when tax-exempt products would have been more suitable.

A recruitment "freeze" was imposed in May 1997 after the the insurance giant was ordered to test and where necessary retrain its direct sales- force.

Management controls have been tightened, but one-third of the Pru's branch offices have been closed and the sales-force has been run down from 5,500 to around 3,000.

A new remuneration package has also been introduced, which will provide sales staff with a basic salary worth at least 60 per cent of their total pay and reduce their dependence on bonuses and commission income.

The Pru has now been given the go-ahead by the Financial Services Agency - which replaced the SIB - to resume recruitment. The company is advertising for staff but there are no plans to increase numbers significantly and total numbers are expected to fluctuate between 2,500 and 3,000.

Over 60 per cent of the Pru's sales are channelled through independent financial advisers, and this side of the business has grown by 70 per cent over the past year, partly due to its purchase of Scottish Amicable.