Insurers Cash Grab
Aviva and Prudential are planning to divert billions of pounds of surplus cash in their with-profits funds to shareholders, despite the fact that those who hold endowments, bonds and pensions are suffering lousy returns.
Aviva own Norwich Union, which recently warned 90% of its endowment policy holders to expect shortfalls on their policies. Aviva wants to pass a large part of the £4BN of inherited estate, in its Commercial Union Life and CGNU Life with-profits funds, to shareholders in 2008.
It is estimated that 1.4m policyholders will each received several hundreds of pounds of compensation. However, Which? believes that they are entitled to over £2K.
Doug Taylor at Which is quoted in The Times as saying:
"The fair solution would be to give 90% to policyholders and 10% to shareholders, even if this is not Norwich Union's preferred result."
Patrick Connolly at JS&P Towry Law, said:
"Norwich Union doesn't want to release the funds to benefit policyholders but because it wants to use them to support the business and boost shareholders' profits."
Prudential also wants to pass on £9BN billion from the inherited estate to shareholders.
These moves are expected to encourage other insurers to do the same, in order to prop up their share prices and to keep the shareholders quiet and subservient.
David Riddington, a senior actuary for Norwich Union, said:
"The inherited estate is legally owned by the company and its shareholders, so policyholders don't have any rights as such. Payments to customers are likely to be comparatively modest."
Ian Allison at Brunel Franklin, said:
"We are astonished that Norwich Union sees fit to attribute some of its surplus to shareholders while many endowment victims' finances remain in tatters."
Clare Spottiswoode has been appointed as "policyholder advocate", by Norwich.
The Policyholder Advocate is the representative for all the eligible with-profits policyholders of a company that is considering a reattribution of inherited estates.
The Policyholder Advocate's key job is to negotiate the size of any incentive to withy-profits policyholders to give up their rights to any possible future distribution from the inherited estate.
Details about Spottiswoode can be found on the website www.policyholderadvocate.org.
The outcome of these two moves will impact the rest of the industry, and the finances of the long suffering endowment policy holders.