Damian Fantato  

Clumsy providers risk more than poaching

Damian Fantato

Damian Fantato

When big companies try to communicate with normal human beings it often goes badly wrong.

Either the poor unsuspecting consumers will be swallowed alive under a tidal wave of paperwork or they will find themselves on the receiving end of some painfully engineered cutesyness with the fingerprints of several high paid marketing gurus all over it (there’s a well known brand of smoothies that has become famous for this).

This – in part – is the trap Aviva found itself falling into recently when it tried to communicate with its clients as a nice, friendly pension provider to suggest some options for their off-platform pensions. Unfortunately for Aviva, it sent these communications to both an adviser’s clients and the adviser himself – on several occasions.

It is accurate to say that in at least one of these instances the company suggested seeking financial advice or discussing the matter with an adviser. But to say the font was small would have been generous. It was also buried pretty far down the email. Aviva defended itself by pointing to its obligations under Mifid II to communicate with its clients. There is clearly some merit in this.

And while Aviva does have an advice arm it is hardly of the scale of some of the big, vertically integrated companies like Quilter and Standard Life Aberdeen. The issue is more one of clumsiness – a company bulldozing its way into the relationship between adviser and client like a bull in a china shop. But that does not make it any less important.

If companies encourage – consciously or otherwise – an advised client to go rogue it puts at risk the carefully laid plans an adviser will have laid out for that person’s retirement income. At a time when pensions are mistrusted already, this is the last thing the industry needs.

damian.fantato@ft.com