NatWest Life is NatWest Bank’s insurance subsidiary. Launched in
1993, it escaped the criticism heaped on established operators in the
wake of the pensions mis-selling scandal but, like other industry
newcomers, is struggling to carve a niche in a crowded market. Last
autumn, as worry about the ageing population’s increasing burden on the
Welfare State continued, it launched a research project into the future
of UK pensions.
To commission and produce an independent report which could contribute
to the pensions debate. To show NatWest Life as a good ’corporate
citizen’ which sought to shape pensions policy for the good of the whole
To position the company as a major pensions player.
The team aimed to lift the grey shroud from the pensions debate. It
selected a diverse working party: the four writers of the report came
from the charity sector, academia and strategic consultancy, while the
wider team included MPs, economists and consumer organisations.
To sustain interest during the three month research period ’off the
record’ lunch briefings were held between journalists and working party
The main political parties were also kept informed: Joanne Hindle,
NatWest Life’s pensions development director, and Professor Patrick
Minford, one of the report writers, both gave briefings to social
security secretary Peter Lilley.
Several weeks prior to the launch, key newspapers were earmarked to
receive exclusives on different aspects of the report. The launch
conference itself, which was not open to the press, was attended by 150
politicians, regulators and pensions operators. Each attendee received a
copy of the report plus an executive summary, produced by contract
publisher Wardour Communications.
Journalists were, meanwhile, sent reference packs containing the report
and the project background.
The breadth of the different elements of the working party meant the
November launch attracted a wide cross-section of the media, rather than
just the financial press.
Coverage of the pre-launch briefings included pieces in the Financial
Times and Sunday Times. Editorials, while acknowledging NatWest Life’s
marketing advantages in backing the report, were generally positive.
Paul Ham, Sunday Times personal finance editor, wrote that the report
had achieved ’the fusion of brilliant, if occasionally eccentric, ideas
into a compelling policy document’. And Express money editor Steven Day
said the 135-page report was ’the most practical contribution on
consumer pensions to date’.
The Lansons/Natwest Life team expected media attention to wither after
the conference. However, the following day, the government announced its
intention to revolutionise the state pension system. Caught on the hop,
and with the NatWest Life information on their desks and their minds,
the media - from the Financial Times to European Business News, drew
heavily on the NatWest report to complement the bare bones of the
By-lined pieces by company directors appeared in several nationals.
The campaign succeeded in helping to position NatWest Life as an
authoritative commentator on the UK pensions scene. Its impact was
undoubtedly assisted by the timing of Peter Lilley’s announcement, yet
one could say such apparent serendipity also reflected well on the team,
as it showed NatWest Life/Lansons in-step with government mood.
But, only time will tell - as the report recedes in media memory and a
change of government looms - whether the man from NatWest Life stays in
Client: NatWest Life
PR Team: In-house and Lansons Communications
Campaign: A Changing Nation
Timescale: September 1996 - March 1997
Cost: pounds 100,000