Life companies are having to adapt to a new generation.
They have sustained their businesses on brand and a lack of alternatives, but this will not work in the future.
Previously their business was built on marrying products and investment management, but most proved inept at the latter, so they are now only left with the product side with much of the investment management side outsourced to external fund managers.
But there is increasing competition on this product side.
This month we profile wrap provider Transact who provide all the major product wrappers, plus full open architecture, including investment trusts and direct equities.
Managing director Ian Taylor says the Australian market currently supports 100 wrap providers.
It is difficult to see what a life office could offer in addition to compete.
Perhaps new entrant Hartford gives a clue - this US life company has built its UK offering on providing top quality service and an innovative guarantee structure.
The RealAdviser Inquiry this month looks at life offices and how they are adjusting their business models and product range to accommodate the changing environment.
It showed that there is still a surprising attachment among advisers to the life offices with over half of those surveyed still recommending their products.
This could be because old habits die hard, but it is more likely to be better-thedevil- you-know.
And with the alternatives cropping up, that is no way to sustain a business.
But the industry is slow to shift, so life offices have time on their side.
Equally it is unfair to tar all life offices with the same brush.
Some have made great leaps to improve their service provision and product range.
Some, like Skandia, have been consistently innovative and this is reflected in these companies' reputation.
The survey made it clear that one of advisers' biggest gripes is service provision.
Those companies who treat their customers badly - who make them wait half an hour to speak to someone who cannot answer simple queries, who sell them expensive, poorly-performing products, who blame stockmarkets or the FSA for their own short-comings - will find this new environment very tough indeed.
Cherry Reynard, editor, RealAdviser
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Some 2,000 consumers affected
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