Salesmen go after Widows

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The Independent Online

Lloyds TSB salesmen have been reprimanded for directly contacting Scottish Widows policyholders just days after the £6.7bn takeover of the Edinburgh-based pension group.

The news is likely to anger policyholders who are still waiting for windfall payments averaging £6,000.

IT teams are said to have been working "18 hours a day" since 6 March - the day Scottish Widows officially became part of Lloyds TSB - to process windfall cheques, which will not be sent out until the summer.

Yet Lloyds TSB has already managed to gain access to lists of Scottish Widows policyholders in order to persuade them to review their policies.

"This shouldn't have happened," said David Graham, brand and network development director at Scottish Widows. "There seems to have been over-enthusiasm at that [sales] level in Lloyds TSB. It won't happen again."

Mr Graham has reprimanded the salesmen involved after being alerted to the new practice by the Independent on Sunday.

One Scottish Widows policyholder, who bought his policy through an independent financial adviser (IFA), was surprised to receive a phone call from a Bath-based Lloyds TSB salesman last week. The salesman invited him to come into his local branch to discuss his policy, in effect bypassing the customer's IFA.

The policyholder, who is perfectly happy with both his policy and his financial adviser, declined the offer. Ten minutes later his wife, who also holds a policy with Scottish Widows, received a similar call from another Lloyds TSB salesman.

"I was very conscious of this potential problem," said Mr Graham. "But I hadn't thought it would happen. We must at all costs avoid antagonising the IFAs, which bring in 85 per cent of our business."

As he predicts, IFAs are not impressed by the news. Most of them rely on customers buying policies through them.

"From a commercial point of view, Lloyds TSB is trying to pinch other people's clients," said Mark Dampier, head of research at IFA Hargreaves Lansdown.

"If it does happen, it would make us stop using Scottish Widows entirely."