Pru looks at retirement after youthful distraction of Egg

PrudentialTo outward appearances, Prudential’s marketing team is in a state of turmoil. The company has appointed its third marketing director in just over a year, and only months after the Pru brand revival plan got underway.

Yet the insurance giant claims its business is in great shape, buoyed by ambitious plans to claim the “retirement age” market. Angus MacIver, who has been spearheading the strategy, departs next month to Morrisons (MW September 6) but the company believes the promotion of Ali Crossley, which was revealed last week on marketingweek.co.uk, will provide the consistency it needs to continue the strategy.

In her first interview since being named UK marketing director, Crossley says: “The brand is very resonant in the retirement income market, and pursuing that is very much our strategy in the UK and Europe. The brand is going to be all about the retirement income area from now on.” 

Marketing merry-go-round
Crossley, who was previously lifetime mortgages director, has been at Prudential for five years, joining as marketing communications director after a seven-year stint as a financial services marketing consultant.

MacIver, another Prudential veteran, is joining supermarket group Morrisons as its first board-level marketing director. He succeeded Alison Wright, who left the insurer following the sale of internet bank brand Egg to Citi in April (MW April 4). Wright had stepped up to replace Roger Ramsden – who left as part of a management reshuffle and is now at RBS Insurance – in May 2006, just four months after joining the business as Egg’s chief marketing officer.

Now that Egg – a stumbling block for Prudential’s management for a number of years and the subject of several dramatic strategy U-turns – has been sold, Prudential can focus on the “historic” master brand. Egg struggled in the highly competitive UK personal finance market and is estimated to have made an operating loss of £145m in 2006.

The sale came just 13 months after Prudential had acquired the remaining 22% stake in the internet bank it did not already own. At the time, group chief executive Mark Tucker argued that the combined strength of the Pru, Egg and fund manager brand M&G would provide “significantly greater” opportunities than operating in isolation. Tucker took the top job from Jonathan Bloomer, who was ousted in March 2005 following criticisms by investors over his failure to sell Egg.

One observer notes it is a “very” different Prudential today than a year ago. As well as resolving the Egg conundrum, the threat of a hostile takeover seems to have passed and the management team appears more settled.

Another industry source says: “Egg going away and Angus [MacIver] taking over the reins has allowed them to focus again on what they can offer the market and dig deeper into what Prudential stands for. For the first time in many, many years all parts are talking and working together.” 

Crossley agrees: “It is now a very focused business and very different from what it was two years ago. And the Pru brand is one of our biggest assets. There has been a huge amount of work done in the past three months,” she adds. “And that is beginning to be seen externally.” 

Negative assets
It needs to be, and soon, says another observer, who believes consumers have been left confused by a muddled strategy. “It’s been fairly obvious that Prudential has been trading on its heritage for the past couple of years, which has created confusion for consumers, who haven’t been able to understand what the Pru has stood for,” adds the source.

Prudential is launching an ad campaign in mid-October, with the strapline “Retirement has more potential with Prudential”. The insurance company will be hoping its emphasis on the over-50s pension market will have more potential than its ill-fated Egg venture.

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