Standard Life reports sharp fall in UK sales

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The Independent Online

Standard Life, the Scottish insurance giant, yesterday unveiled the full extent of its damaging solvency crisis last winter - which led to its decision to demutualise - as it revealed a sharp drop in sales across its retail insurance business in 2004.

Sales of individual pensions were down more than 8 per cent over the 13 and a half months to the end of 2004, compared with the 12 months to November 2003.

Having changed its financial year to run from January to December, rather than from November to November, the extent of the fall in sales was somewhat disguised by the longer trading period. Compared with the 2003 calendar year, it is thought pension sales would have been down more than 10 per cent.

Sales of investment bonds fell 4 per cent, while annuity and income drawdown sales were almost 25 per cent down on a year ago. Protection saw a 54 per cent drop in new business - as the group raised its prices and only wrote business at more profitable levels.

The falls come in a year when the life assurance market as a whole grew 5 per cent. Strong growth in its UK group pensions business, saved Standard Life from a much worse overall result in its domestic insurance operations, with total sales down just 2 per cent.

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