According to Standard & Poor's rating of life insurance companies, the UK groups are leading the field when it comes to financial strength. The other insurers covered are based in France, Germany, Neth-erlands and Switzerland.

Of the eight insurers given the accolade of an S&P triple A rating, seven are based in the UK. These are the UK branch of American Life, Legal & General, Pearl, Prudential and two Scottish offices, Scottish Equitable and Standard Life, and Sun Life Assurance of Canada.

The only continental European to gain this rating was Dutch insurer Aegon, which had the distinction of seeing its UK operation Scottish Equitable achieve the same.

Over 30 continental companies were given a rating in this first move into Europe and around 40 UK companies have been rated prior to this.

The French market may not have produced any triple A ratings this time around, but 11 of the 17 companies have a double A rating, which shows the very great strength of the market.

In Germany, the 18 companies rated had a much wider spectrum, with only four being AA-rated and 11 gaining single-A status. The relative handful of Dutch and Swiss companies covered also had a similar spread.