Tales from End to End
The Man from the Pru’s Tale
by Malcolm Bond
I’m Malcolm Bond and I am a Chartered Surveyor working for Prudential. I met John and Nancy whilst walking with my wife Alison on the South West Coastal Path – we accompanied them for part of the route between Polzeath and Port Quin and John asked me if I could ‘Tell a Tale’ about the Pru.
Prudential first started selling insurance through agents, acting as local salesmen. The agents who collected these premiums became known as the ‘Men from the Pru’. Before 1990, Prudential had about 500 local offices throughout the country, each supporting ‘The Man from the Pru’. Lots of people, even today, may remember their local ‘Man from the Pru’ who used to visited them and collect their premiums, maybe on a weekly basis. Many people also remember where their local Prudential offices were located in their own town or village.
But things changed, and soon all these local branches were closed, as telephone banking, the internet, and general outsourcing took over.
In 1999, Prudential acquired M & G, a fund management company, and in 2008 about 3,000 back office jobs were outsourced (1,000 in Scotland, 750 in Reading and 1,250 to Mumbai). Most of Prudential’s profits now come from their offices in Asia.
So the ‘Man from the Pru’ disappeared, as new businesses and technology and working methods developed very quickly. Dealing with the buildings side of the business, once all 500 local branches throughout the country were closed, it never ceased to amaze me that people never seemed to forget their local ‘Man from the Pru’, or where their local office had been located.
One day, I was visiting an old, vacant branch office which had been shut down and closed for at least 4 years. It was located in a small, seaside town, on the first floor, above some shops. I rolled up the ground floor shutters, walked upstairs and turned the lights on. I checked that everything was ok inside.
After a few minutes, I thought I heard a sound. I listened. Someone was walking up the stairs. The steps came closer. The front door opened very slowly, and an old lady crept in and approached the former branch counter.
‘Excuse me’ she said, ‘Are you Prudential?’
‘Yes’, I replied, ‘Can I help?’
You can guess what came next.
‘Yes’ she said ‘Can I pay you my insurance premium, please?’