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Aegon under fire again over Origen push to advised clients

Aegon has once again come under fire over its client contact policy after an IFA complained that a 12-week annuity letter sent to a client strongly promoted Aegon Annuity Service, a trading name of Aegon-owned adviser firm Origen Financial Services.

Douglas Edgar, IFA at Glasgow-based Edgar Financial Advice Ltd, complained to Aegon after he received a copy of a letter that was sent to his client as it gives prominent promotion to the Origen service on page 1 of the letter and makes no mention of the existing adviser relationship.

The letter, seen by FTAdviser, informs the client that Aegon is obliged to issue a quotation for an annuity at this time and that it gives the planholder an opportunity to seek advice.

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The first page of the letter promotes Aegon Annuity Service and information on the open market option is included on the second. Using an IFA is mentioned on the fourth page of the document and there is no reference about existing adviser anywhere in the letter.

In response to the complaint in a letter dated 28 October, seen by FTAdviser, Aegon told the IFA that the group is making changes to the 12 week letter and admitted it could be clearer and could be confusing where an active adviser relationship is in place.

The letter states: “We do recognise that the 12 week letter could be clearer and, whilst not intended, could introduce confusion where an active adviser relationship is in place.

“With that in mind, we are already planning to introduce a number of changes over the coming months. I hope you’ll see a clearer letter from us in the near future.”

A spokesperson for Aegon said: “Following feedback from a handful of our advisers we recently changed the order of our letters so that we stressed that customers should speak to advisers on page 1 and we will continuously look to improve our letters where possible.

“Our previous response remains the same. We have a responsibility to give our customers all the options available to them and we strongly advise them to seek professional financial advice. Where there is an adviser relationship they are copied into the communications, so they have nothing to fear.

“We are not only confident that our letter wording is in no way biased, we are absolutely convinced that where a strong adviser relationship exists our letter will not do anything to disrupt the advice given to that customer.”

Mr Edgar said: “They are obviously trying to promote their company, that is quite clear. They should be telling the [client] who their adviser is - an annuity perhaps may not be the way to go.

“I feel the letter is definitely slanted towards their other company that they own, and it appears to me they are trying to promote their own adviser over us. In my mind they have crossed the line.”

This is the second time in recent weeks Aegon has come under scrutiny over its client contact policies.