Pru sets tougher targets on sales

THE PRUDENTIAL denied reports yesterday that it was preparing to sack over 1,000 of its sales staff if they failed to meet stiff new productivity targets, as the company continued its drive to recover from the pensions mis-selling scandal.

The reports were prompted by the Pru's reaction to stinging criticism from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) over the group's part in the scandal. Sir Peter Davies, the Pru's chief executive, launched a campaign in January to "turn hunters into farmers", which involved retraining the entire 4,000-strong sales force.

This involved increasing the minimum business target for a 12-month period from pounds 46,000 to pounds 55,600. Around a third of the sales force appeared to be below this "professional economic business level" (PEBL), causing speculation that they might be fired.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Pru said: "This programme is being phased in over the next six months. There is no question that these people will be sacked. The idea is to improve productivity, and people falling below the PEBL will be given extra training".

David Parsons, a National Union of Insurance Workers (NUIW) national officer, said yesterday the union had agreed a "Professional Develpment Plan" with the Pru a month ago. "Its all part of the move away from commissions to salaries", he said. "Structured support will be provided to those (in the sales force) who fall below the PEBL." There will be an appeals process if they can't agree (levels) with their managers".

The spokesman for the Pru added that the sales force was being retrained so that it would put a higher priority on building portfolios of financial products for customers, rather than just aiming for one-off sales.

"This doesn't mean the sales people will suffer, just that they will be paid in a different way," he said. "This new remuneration structure could be in place by next year." he concluded.