Legacy of Aegon boss still positive

Legacy of Aegon boss still positive

He is described as a force of nature, difficult – and lovely.

Clearly, Adrian Grace is a man who splits opinions.

But one thing that is agreed on is that in the nine years Mr Grace has been at the helm of Aegon UK he changed the face of the business.

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Last month, it was announced that he would be stepping down and would be replaced by Mike Holliday-Williams, who was most recently managing director of personal lines at Direct Line.

So, what is Mr Grace’s legacy likely to be?

If it is solely to be defined by the past 12-18 months, it might not make for favourable reading, owing to the plethora of problems Cofunds – the platform Aegon acquired in 2016 – has suffered from.

It was hit by problems in the immediate aftermath of its replatforming in May 2017, with advisers unable to get valuations for their clients’ portfolios or make transfers. 

Other issues have ranged from clients not receiving income payments on time, to customers not able to sign into the platform.

In August, the company said it believed it had restored the service levels on its platform and added it would complete several upgrades to the system in the coming months.

Cofunds became part of Aegon in 2018, ditching its name in the process.

Key Points

  • Mr Grace has stepped down as chief executive of Aegon UK
  • His recent legacy has been problems with integrating Cofunds
  • He nonetheless has bequeathed a company set up for the future

Mike Barrett, a consultant at The Lang Cat, says: “I think undoubtedly if you are an adviser or customer there were a number of things which, Aegon would have said, slipped below the standard of what they wanted to achieve through the integration.

“Inevitably with these things, even though they might say, ‘It is only a small percentage of customers’, the nature of what we are doing here is: someone is investing their financial life with the company, so if something does go wrong it becomes very much a big problem and very personal to those customers.”

Mr Barrett adds that replatforming is challenging and can take as much as 18 months to be completed.

Ex-Skandia chief executive Peter Mann says: “With the huge amount of replatforming that is going on, we sometimes lose sight of why people replatform. Why bother?

“Well, it’s because of the constant strive for optimum efficiency in the long term, that forces people to make these decisions.

“In [Mr] Grace’s case, he acquired Cofunds, which was on a particular platform. It is harder to run a couple of platform structures than one.

“And it is easy to have a go at the firms which have replatformed, but the driver is long-term efficiency and value for advisers.”

Aegon says the platform has returned to its target level of service in the second half of 2018.