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Thousands of workers await Friends Provident's decision on southern offices

Friends Provident, the FTSE 100 insurer, is believed to be considering consolidating its offices across the South of England, which could result in job losses.

The chief executive, Trevor Matthews, is believed to have asked his former Standard Life colleague Tony Brown, managing director of people and change at the company, to assess the viability of offices in Dorking, Salisbury and Exeter where nearly 2,000 work. A source said: "Consolidation makes absolute sense. They are a legacy of the past so the creation of one central, cost effective location, seems spot on."

Friends Provident has already radically scaled back its Manchester operation. The insurer said last year it was culling 600 jobs ahead of a strategic review by Mr Matthews, which eventually saw the company retain its Lombard business and spin off its stake in the struggling F & C fund manager.

Friends Provident shares slumped from nearly 120p a year ago to 73p at the close of business on Friday.