Jim Smart steps down from Friends Provident

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Respected finance director, Jim Smart, is to leave Friends Provident in August dealing the insurer yet another blow.

The insurer is already without a chief executive after the departure of Philip Moore and ahead of the arrival of Trevor Matthews from Standard Life. Friends said that Smart wanted to ‘pursue other opportunities’.

Chairman, Sir Adrian Montague, said Smart has made a tremendous impact in his time with Friends Provident. The board is grateful that he put his own plans on hold to work on the strategic review and that he will stay with us until the summer. By that time, the implementation of the review will be well advanced and we will have a new chief executive in place.

Jim Smart insisted the decision should not be seen as a vote of no-confidence in the board or the business model. He said he is not sure what he will do next. It has been an eventful period in this company’s development and I am now looking forward to a new challenge, said Mr Smart.

However, according to analysts, the insurer looks increasingly in limbo, with investors desperate for a decent takeover offer to improve the company’s future.

This week, Friends confirmed it made a loss of £113 million for the 12 months to December, compared with a profit of £491 million a year ago. This was primarily due to savers withdrawing money from products that have mostly performed well below those of rivals.

Friends was established in 1832, when it was formed to alleviate the hardship of Quaker families. This year has been the most challenging in its 176 year history. A merger with Resolution Life collapsed and rumours of a split at the top over strategy emerged.


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