Norwich sales staff to repeat retraining

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The Independent Online
NORWICH Union said last night that a significant number of its 800- strong sales force will be back at work today after a month's suspension for retraining.

But it said the full sales force would not be back in place until early June because some of the staff had failed parts of the course and would have to retake it.

Philip Scott, general manager of the life operations, said the training was divided into three modules; if any one module was failed, it had to be retaken. 'The process will be completely finished by early June,' he said. 'There will be a few who have to do a module again.'

The training programme was tough, but Mr Scott said: 'We will be making sure that we don't sacrifice quality for speed.'

Norwich Union had said normal business would resume today. But confirmation that many staff may have to retake courses before they are allowed to return to giving investors financial advice suggests the training problem has been harder to cure than was thought at first.

Lautro, the life insurance regulator, ordered the mutual company to shut down its sales force because of serious concerns about its lack of competence. Norwich Union's 600-strong sales staff, and another 200 who work for firms of tied agents, were forced to undergo urgent retraining.

Life office managers were examining test results over the weekend.

Norwich Union has blamed its problems on a breakdown in management. Some 17 managers were asked to leave after Mr Scott took over the UK life operations last July. Ron Calver, Mr Scott's predecessor, left Norwich Union with a pay-off of pounds 267,000.

Mr Scott was concerned at the number of young and inexperienced salespeople. At one stage, 30 per cent of proposed sales had to be rejected because of potential problems.

Norwich Union has had a series of problems with financial regulators and was the first company to receive a Lautro intervention order because of its inadequate controls over a firm of sales staff.

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