Providers will never win in the advice sphere as they lack the “specific skills and culture” needed, according to Aegon boss Adrian Grace, who said the insurer “never worked out” how national advice network Positive Solutions “fitted with what we are trying to do”.
Speaking to FTAdviser, the provider’s chief executive responded to a question on the role of providers in advice in the wake of the latest move into advice by annuity specialist Just Retirement.
Last year, the provider offloaded its network Positive Solutions to Intrinsic Financial Services for £9.5m.
He explained: “I wasn’t here when we bought PosSol, eight or nine years ago, and we never really worked out how it fitted with what we are trying to do and we weren’t clear on how that business fitted with the overall Aegon, but now we are quite clear with what we are.”
Earlier this year, Standard Life announced the launch of a wholly-owned, UK-wide financial advice business, after agreeing with Skipton Building Society to buy its Pearson Jones advisory business.
Elsewhere, Just Retirement last week announced it would be launching a ‘simplified’ advice service, which it said is designed to help retirees with medium-sized pension funds navigate new at-retirement freedoms.
Mr Grace commented that the firm does not want to play in that part of the value chain. “We don’t want to go into advice, as it’s a very specific skill and culture and I think advisers are doing a fabulous job in terms of what they do in terms of supporting customers, but they do it in a particular way which a provider can never be good at.
“I think we have taken good choices to not compete with advisers, but to support them in the way we can... [and] to respect the value they bring in the customer relationship and continue to focus on what we’re good at.”
“We will never buy into advice again as I don’t see that as being core to our business going forward.”
Aegon does still have what Mr Grace described as “legacy” ownership of another adviser network, Origen Financial Services, although he denied a conflict as it is a standalone business with separate board and governance and therefore “not core” to the group.
“It’s still a part of the history that we’ve got but, as I say, will we be buying anything new, will I be buying anything to get into the advice market? No, been there before, and I didn’t like it.
“The biggest challenge to me was Positive Solution, and I felt that was better owned by advisers and I dealt with that,” he added. “I don’t see Origen as a particular challenge or issue as there are no major problems with it... I took the opportunity to exit Positive Solutions when the right deal came along.”