Scottish Life has posted record results for 2012, helped by a strong final quarter where it went head to head with rivals still using commission incentives on group pensions.

Mutual insurer Royal London's pensions arm, which employs 1080 people in Edinburgh, lifted total new life and pensions business by 8% to £2.44 billion last year.

There was a 48% rise to £662 million in the last quarter, when the industry was facing the outlawing of commissions on new business when the retail distribution review (RDR) took effect on December 31.

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Ewan Smith, Scottish Life's managing director, said: "This is a significant achievement since, unlike a number of provider companies, Scottish Life competes purely on the quality of our overall proposition. Our new business results haven't been flattered by any 'buy now' commission campaigns in the run-up to RDR implementation."

Aegon, Aviva and Scottish Widows are understood to have been among those taking full advantage of the final window for commissions to drive their year-end sales in the group pensions market.

A Scottish Life source said: "Some companies have been continuing to compete on commission levels paid – clearly a desperate strategy because it was only ever going to come to a conclusion with RDR."

He added: "Despite that, our final quarter was particularly strong, exactly at the time you would have expected the maximum impact."

The net value of in-force group pensions was up 21% to £771m, while individual pensions rose by 2% to £1.46bn in a difficult market. Annuities were up 24% to £150m, with Scottish Life believing itself unlikely to be vulnerable to losing business through greater consumer awareness, as it has a big book of guaranteed annuities paying high rates.

The pension specialist's credentials appear to have been recognised in the most recent round of industry prizes, with Scottish Life coming top of the pile in the 2012 awards from Financial Adviser, Money Marketing, and Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts.

It says based on the most recent market share statistics, Scottish Life has continued to increase its share of both the individual and group personal pension markets.

Mr Smith added: "Looking forward, 2013 promises to be an interesting year, as the UK pensions market adapts to the new RDR environment and also to an increasing number of employers reaching their staging date for automatic enrolment. Scottish Life is well placed to benefit from both opportunities, and will continue to support advisers and their clients with market leading, value-for-money propositions."

He said the company led the "at retirement" market where its income release product now had a 65% market share, strengthened by the release last August of a new range of choices for income drawdown.