The current welter of newspaper ads and TV commercials urging
Norwich Union members to return their completed share application form
by the 10 June deadline is reminiscent of a past when greed was good.
Who knows, we might live to see again those memorable images of the
investing public queuing up to get their applications in on time.
In this case, from an investment perspective, the hype is justified.
Only a cruel blow from the Chancellor in his post-election budget is
likely to transform the share offer from being anything other than a
But what of the below-the-line communications masterminded by Brunswick
and sponsored by Norwich Union’s in-house team? Cynics would say that
the merits of the offer sell themselves. This is largely the case with
the personal finance writers, most of whom have given the offer an
unequivocal thumbs up. In my view, this group of journalists is among
the most underrated in the profession. Writing on a subject on which
most of us are novices, personal finance writers wield enormous
potential power. Mindful of this, there is sometimes a reticence to take
a firm stance. No such holding back here.
Among the wider group of journalists commenting on the rationale for the
flotation, the editorial climate is again positive. The rationale
appears more solid than that offered for some recent demutualisations,
and the comments from Norwich Union’s senior managers suggest that there
is a real desire to reward exsiting members first - unusual for a
financial services company.
The mini-prospectus seems clear enough, and, for those who require more
information, the availablity of the full prospectus is well
I don’t know if it appears in the latter, but there is certainly no
reference in the summary version to the insurer’s enforced withdrawal of
its direct salesforce as a result of pressure from the regulator. Nor is
there any reference to Norwich Union’s almost total dependence on
independent financial advisers. How does NU intend to reach the wider
public who tend not to use IFAs?
But these are churlish comments. One of the real tests of the campaign’s
effectiveness will be the number of qualifying members who respond to
the various mailings and the media onslaught to claim their
Norwich Union stated just last week that 300,000 members had not
responded, which is a reminder of the scale of the communications task
which still lies ahead. Come back Sid, we need you.