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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 13:53 GMT
Aviva plans windfalls for 2008
Surrey House, Norwich Union offices, Norwich
Norwich Union policyholders are in line for another windfall
More than a million policyholders with investments in Aviva are in line for windfall payments in 2008.

Aviva has appointed former gas industry regulator Clare Spottiswoode to negotiate a share of the company's "orphan assets" for policyholders.

This is surplus money that has been built up over the years in two of Aviva's "with-profits" funds which hold various investment policies.

The orphan or inherited assets currently amount to 3bn.

Aviva, which trades largely under the Norwich Union brand name, wants to give some of this surplus to its shareholders.

But before it can do that it must gain the agreement of its policyholders.

Windfalls

If all the money were given to the 1.1 million eligible policyholders they would receive just under 3,000 each.

However, the eventual offer to them is likely to be much less, possibly just a few hundred pounds each.

The company believes most of the money belongs in fact to its shareholders.

Some of it will also be kept back to continue cushioning the with-profits funds.

So its impending offer is not a distribution of policyholder funds, as was the case in the Norwich Union's demutualisation during 1997.

In reality it will be a payment to policyholders to relinquish any future possible claim on the funds.

Thus Aviva is calling them "incentive payments".

How much money?

It is to resolve the issue of just how much money should be offered to policyholders that Ms Spottiswoode has been employed as an independent policyholder advocate.

My job is to negotiate with Norwich Union the size of payment to eligible policyholders
Clare Spottiswoode

"My job is to negotiate with Norwich Union the size of payment to eligible policyholders in return for giving up their rights to any possible future distributions from the inherited estates," she said.

"As part of the process I shall be consulting widely with policyholders and others.

"In the months ahead there will be intense negotiation with Norwich Union to try to reach an outcome that I can recommend to policyholders," she added.

She is a former regulator of the gas industry and her appointment has been approved by the Financial Services Authority.

Who is eligible?

The people in line for a windfall are those whose savings are invested in "with-profits" policies, such as endowments, pensions and some types of insurance.

Earlier this year the consumers association Which argued that 90% of the money should be given to the policyholders.

But at the time Aviva said all of the surplus funds were owned by the company and therefore belonged to its shareholders.

It is this split of the assets that will now be negotiated and agreed with Ms Spottiswoode.

No one has to accept the offer though.

Any policyholder who does not like the deal can reject it and keep open their claim to any future division of the orphan assets.

Timetable

Aviva will write to the eligible policyholders in December.

They will be the members of the funds of CGNU Life and the Commercial Union Life Assurance Company (CULAC).

A consultation process with policyholders will then start, lasting until next February, including roadshows around the country.

After negotiations between Ms Spottiswoode and the company an offer will be made in the autumn of 2007.

Those people who accept the deal will receive their windfall sometime in early 2008.

A company spokesman pointed out though that Aviva would only proceed with an offer if it could come to an agreement with the adjudicator.

In 2000 the life insurance company Axa Sun Life won 70% backing from its then 660,000 policyholders for a windfall of 400 each, in exchange for giving up any claim on its orphan assets worth 1.7 billion.


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