UK - Life office Clerical Medical is reopening its doors to new group business after clearing a two-and-a-half year administration backlog and revamping its software platform.
The Bristol-based insurer closed to group business in September 2001 after winning unprecedented new business which pushed its admin capacity to the brink of meltdown.
Clerical had originally signalled a return to the commission-based group market as early as the first quarter of 2002, but instead decided to undertake a “fundamental review of its operating platform”.
The firm scrapped its existing Marlborough Stirling software platform in favour of Equitable Life’s system which Clerical’s parent, HBOS, acquired in February 2001.
Clerical has now completed a revamp of the former Equitable platform – CPAS PLUS – and claims its system is the most robust in the market.
Sales director Graeme Riddoch (pictured) admits it suffered an “administration explosion” throughout the summer of 2001.
He said: “We left the group commission market because of the weight of new business that flooded us and we were open and honest about our problems.”
The insurer said it had made every effort to announce its return to the market “in a low key manner”.
Riddoch added: “We will never again put new business in front of existing customers – it was precisely that which got us into trouble in the first place.”
Clerical now offers group stakeholder, group personal pensions, group money purchase and group additional voluntary contribution plans.
It will target its products to both commission and fee-based advisers, including IFAs, large employee benefit consultants and actuarial consultants.
As a further safeguard to maintaining the integrity of its service Clerical said it would operate “capacity planning to ensure that available resources are always in balance with demand”.
Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail said: “There is a dearth of quality providers out there so their return is welcomed. But obviously after a two-and-a-half year hiatus they will have to work hard to re-establish their credentials within the IFA community.”
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