A surge in new business in the first three months of this year encouraged Legal & General's new chief executive to suggest yesterday that Britain's spendthrift, borrow-now-pay-later culture may be fading.

"Saving does seem to be coming back into fashion in the UK, " said Tim Breedon. Publicity arising from the Turner report on pensions may have highlighted the need to put money aside in general, he suggested.

Mr Breedon was commenting on a 28 per cent increase in L&G's UK new business to the equivalent of £363 million in new annual premiums. The global total of £390 million was 27 per cent ahead.

At the same time, L&G reported that its fund managers had won £5.6 billion of new money to invest, 63 per cent more than in the same months last year.

"We continue to attract an average of over £1 billion a month of new business from pension fund clients and we saw significant growth also from non-pension fund institutions," L&G stated.

L&G's shares picked up 1p to 1421/2p.

One boost came from financial advisers persuading their clients to reorganise and pull together small pension packages they have assembled in the past ahead of the start of Chancellor Gordon Brown's new pension regime on April 6, known as "A-day".

This spurred a 52 per cent rise in sales of with-profits individual pensions to the equivalent of £41 million in annual premiums.

Against that sales of with-profit bonds again declined sharply to £21 million, down from £57 million. Customers increasingly prefer specialised unitised investments rather than a with-profits package.

Overall retail investments were 65 per cent ahead at £124 million in premium equivalents, reflecting growing confidence in equity markets among private investors.

Mr Breedon noted the benefits of L&G's partnership with Cofunds, a "platform" that enables financial advisers to place their clients' investments with a variety of investment managers in a single electronic portfolio within a L&G pensions or insurance "wrapper".

He also highlighted the value of L&G's long-standing relationships with banks and building societies.

"This is a strong start to the year," Mr Breedon added. "We remain confident in our ability to continue delivering profitable growth."