Windfall seekers flood Widows

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SCOTTISH WIDOWS has had to bring in new staff to cope with a surge in inquiries from members of the public hoping to cash in on the pounds 2,000 windfalls that could be on offer if the mutual life insurer decides to convert, writes Andrew Garfield.

Widows - as revealed in The Independent last week - has been talking to Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, about shedding its mutual status and floating on the stock market, although no final decision has yet been taken.

"We have been fairly busy," a spokesman for Widows said yesterday. "We had extra staff in over the weekend." He added: "Some of those inquiries would have resulted in sales. But we cannot say how many because that is commercially confidential information." Widows has not so far taken the step of closing its doors to new customers in an effort to prevent carpetbagging.

Some independent financial advisers have encouraged clients to consider taking out with-profits policies with Scottish Widows so as not to miss out on any windfall. But the view in the industry is that carpetbagging is more difficult with a mutual life insurer than building societies because of the longer-term commitment involved.

The charging structure of some life and pension products also means that those tempted to chase windfalls run the risk that potential gains may be wiped out by the upfront charges.