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Let us educate your clients: Aviva

Let us educate your clients: Aviva

Employee benefits consultants and advisers need to move on from acting as a “gatekeeper” and allow providers to step in and educate workers, John Lawson, head of policy for retirement solutions at Aviva, has said.

Speaking to Financial Adviser, he said Aviva acquires many pension schemes through third parties, such as employee benefits consultants, but “sometimes [the advisers] are a bit over-protective of that relationship”.

Mr Lawson said providers are afraid to encroach on the employee benefit consultants’ and advisers’ market, and as a result are not educating members of the workforce about pensions auto-enrolment.

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He said: “I think we need to have the ability to communicate with the end member of those schemes, just about financial planning, because we have the resources as big firms to produce that material.

“Maybe consultancy firms will produce that material themselves – some of them are producing some great tools and material educational materials – so it will depend on the individual broker or intermediary how they want to manage that relationship. But I think we shouldn’t allow niceties to get in the way of educating people.”

Mr Lawson argued there needed to be an agreement on who was going to educate the scheme members.

He said: “I think we are in a transition period where everyone is waking up to the value of communicating with the scheme member.

“We wouldn’t want to disturb that relationship [between adviser and employer] under any circumstance. The intermediaries introduce business to us, so why would we bite the hand that feeds us? Equally, we need to come to an agreement with an intermediary that somebody should be educating those scheme members.”

Debbie Falvey, defined contribution proposition leader at Aon Employee Benefits, said she has seen providers wanting to bypass the adviser/employer relationship and engage directly with employers and trustees.

She added: “Direct engagement with members might be appropriate where the employer is not engaged with member support, and the providers do have resources and tools that can be useful.

”Equally, consultancy firms have well-developed tools and propositions to support members that their clients may choose to use.”

Adviser view

Andrew Whiteley, IFA at Provisio Chartered Financial Planners, said it was a healthy thing to open up a working relationship between the three parties.

He said: “I think [employee benefits consultants] had a bit of a closed ship for a long time and had not done the best they can. There has been some quite cosy relationships between employee benefits consultants and fund managers.”

ruth.gillbe@ft.com