Inherited Estates: Twelfth Report of Session 2007-08 - Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence - HC Session 2007-08, 496 (Paperback)

by Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Treasury Committee

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'With-profits' funds offer long-term investment products and are managed by life insurance companies, both proprietary and mutual. Policyholder premiums are held in a pooled fund that is invested in a range of assets, with a significant proportion in equities and property.Inherited estates are defined by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) as: 'The part of the with-profits fund over and above what is required to meet the fund's liabilities that the insurer retains as working capital; it will also include any excess surplus in the fund.'Firms will often use the inherited estate to 'smooth out' returns to policyholders in order to cushion them from the extremes of fluctuations in the property and equity markets. The with-profits sector has suffered from conflicts of interest on the part of the management of life funds by proprietary companies, leading to concern among some holders of with-profits policies that their interests have not been adequately protected.All stakeholders in with-profits funds deserve a framework which provides as much simplicity, certainty, and clarity as possible. The Committee is not satisfied that the FSA has done enough to provide a robust framework within which these conflicts of interest can be managed. The use of inherited estates in smoothing returns to policyholders between good and bad years is clearly appropriate but more should be done by the industry to improve the transparency of their application of smoothing techniques.The Committee also comments on funding of new business, mis-selling compensation costs, shareholder tax, phasing of special distribution payouts, and the resources, remit, and visibility of with-profits committees.

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