Equitable Life has turned to Burson-Marsteller to run a crisis
management project as the troubled life assurance firm battles to
improve relations with policyholders.
B-M has been selected for the brief having pitched against Chancery
Communications, and Equitable's retained agency the Maitland
It is understood that B-M will assume responsibility for a campaign to
gain policyholders' backing for plans to secure its long-term future
through the £1bn takeover of the firm by Halifax.
Halifax paid an initial £500m for the assurer, with the remaining
half to follow if agreement is reached with policyholders on the issue
The B-M team is likely to report to Equitable PR head Alistair
Maitland will continue as Equitable's retained agency.
As part of the brief B-M will liaise with members of the Equitable
Member Action Group, which represents disgruntled policyholders,
The group's chairman Paul Braithwaite told PRWeek earlier this month
that Equitable's communications with members had been 'a textbook study
of how not to handle communications,' (PRWeek, 3 August).
The firm's troubles began in July last year when the House of Lords
upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that the insurer must honour its
commitment to paying bonuses to policy holders.
Unable to meet the £1.5bn fallout from the case, and having failed
to find a buyer, the society closed its doors to new business in
Controversy erupted again this year when it slashed 16 per cent off the
value of its with-profits pensions on the same day that it announced to
members Halifax's £1bn takeover.
In December, Equitable chiefs Alan Nash and Chris Headdon resigned amid
the crisis, only for it to later emerge that they would pocket £90,000 a year pensions.