Firing Line: Andy Barton

Firing Line: Andy Barton

Advisers have nothing to fear from Aviva’s plans to scale up its national advice business, the provider has said.

At a time when some advisers are still smarting from their interactions with Standard Life and Aegon, it is perhaps understandable to see why Aviva’s own plans have been met with a degree of scepticism from advisers and providers alike.

But Andy Barton who is heading up the firm's national advice plans is keen to clear up any misconceptions about Aviva’s own plans.

Mr Barton said: “If somebody does not have an adviser and they need advice, particularly if they have reached retirement, we are there to help.

“Before anyone gets to speak to one of our advisers, or contact centres, we first try to establish if they have an adviser. And if they have, we will always direct the customer to go to their adviser.”

The debate about provider-owned advisory firms has been circling for some time.

The argument has centred on how much the firms will compete with their own adviser partners, whether they can give clients a full service and how they manage conflicts of interests that arise.

Pension provider Aegon came under fire in July for allegedly poaching clients from advisers via an automatic upgrade process.

Standard Life has also faced criticisms in the past for trying to poach adviser clients.

In an exclusive interview with Financial Adviser Mr Barton spoke about his plans for the advice business, Aviva’s unique selling point and why advisers can remain confident that their business is safe.

To illustrate his point Mr Barton said that since November 2016 when Aviva launched its service, around 27,000 pensioners that Aviva believed did not have an adviser, have sought advice from the company.

Of that number, only one was with an adviser.

“We only got it wrong in one out of 27,000. We are trying to be careful that if a customer has an adviser they use that adviser.

“If we know there is an active adviser – or there has been any contact from an intermediary or anything that lets us know the customer has an adviser – we leave the adviser and customer to work through their pension requirement."

However, there is a growing advice gap, that much is clear.

And according to Mr Barton, despite the debate around provider-owned adviser firms, Aviva can play a role in filling that gap, while ensuring that customers get the best adviser experience. The company’s mission includes providing advice to customers who would struggle to get advice because of their relatively small investment pot or because they do not know where to go.

He rejoined Aviva in October 2014, having previously been director of employee benefits and direct distribution at Scottish Widows.