Mutual insurer Standard Life yesterday appeared in good shape to turn itself into a listed company, making shareholders of its 2.6 million policyholders.
The society unveiled stronger first half results thanks to the first increase in sales by its core UK life and pensions business for more than two years.
Total insurance sales for the six months to 30 June measured on an annual premium equivalent basis rose by four cent to £619 million.
The improvement was driven by a stronger performance in the UK, where total life and pension sales rose by 10 per cent £459 million thanks to strong demand for Standard Life's new self- invested personal pension ( SIPP) products.
That marked the first sales increase in the society's home market since the final quarter of 2002.
Worldwide, the total was four per cent up at £619 million.
UK sales have been held back by the group's strategy of focusing exclusively on products with a high profit margin, aimed at boosting its financial performance ahead next year's planned flotation.
Fund management wing, Standard Life Investments (SLI), won a number of new mandates to run funds for third parties.
The total rose by 21.9 per cent during the first six months year to £22.3 billion.
SLI is now growing faster than any other of the top 20 pension investment managers.
In addition SLI manages £83.4 million of Standard Life ' s own funds of £117 billion, which grew by 8.3 per cent during the half-year.
"We continue to write new business in the markets we identified as offering the greatest opportunities for profit and long-term growth," said Sandy Crombie, chief executive.
"Our new Self-Invested Personal Pension product displayed significant growth and is the market leader."
Chairman Sir Brian Stewart described the first-half performance as "robust" and in line with expectations.
Ahead of next year's demutualisation the company - founded in 1821 - has cut more than 2,000 jobs and axed its direct sales force.
It sales of its SIPP package - where customers make their own investment decisions - attracted £60 million in the six 0.18 per cent. months, four times the sales in the first half of last year.
Changes in the regulations affecting the distribution of long-term savings products are also reflected in the halfyear results.
Standard generates around 85 per cent of it new business through financial advisers, but said it has now also forged distribution alliances with a number of other financial firms, including Barclays and National Australia Bank.
At Standard Life Bank, gross lending of £1.4 billion was down from £2.1 billion in the first half of last year when the mortgage market was still booming.
The quality of the bank's lending remained high with the number of mortgages three or more months in arrears below the industry average at