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Norwich Union to shed 2,000 of spacey

Norwich Union axed 350 jobs from its general insurance division in the first stage of a redundancy programme that will cut 2,000 jobs over three to five years. NU said increased competitive pressure from direct insurers such as Direct Line had for ced itto review its general insurance operation to cut costs.

The job losses will be in the customer support, collections and claims departments, carried out from 26 branches nationwide. These will remain open, but under the new structure the customer support and claims functions will be carried out from only sevencentres. About 150 of those served with redundancy notices will be redeployed or retrained.

Patrick Snowball, assistant general manager, said: "If we are to fight the challenge of new competitors in an increasingly competitive market in motor and household insurance, we need to ensure that the amount we include in our premium for expenses is minimised.

"We want to reduce expenses to ensure that intermediaries can offer even more competitive premiums in what is a rapidly changing market.

About half of Norwich Union's business comes through its general insurance division. It is Britain's biggest motor insurer, but its market share has suffered because the direct insurers have been able to offer cheaper products by cutting out the brokers'commission.NU is also suffering from increased competition on its life insurance side. The new disclosure regime, forcing insurers to reveal costs to the consumer, has put pressure on it to cut the expenses on its life insurance policies.