Firing Line: Peter Mann on platform consolidation

Firing Line: Peter Mann on platform consolidation

Peter Mann is one of the big names in the retail financial services industry. He has been chief executive of Bankhall and Skandia UK, and has now stepped back from executive roles to follow a non-executive career. 

The latest is his decision to chair the revamped Guardian Assurance brand, which has been relaunched with a sole focus on protection. But given his experience in financial services, there is one executive he has a lot of time for: Adrian Grace, the chief executive of Aegon UK.

He said: “Aegon is a superb business. Adrian is a wonderful guy who absolutely sees what Aegon needs to do. He has the vision to be able to see that Cofunds gives him scale and leverage, and the opportunity to do the BlackRock deal [when it bought BlackRock’s UK DC platform business].”

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Aegon has been transforming itself over the past few years, from a conventional life office to a more platform, investment-focused operation. The company recently announced a management reshuffle following these acquisitions, but along the way there have been nearly 3,000 redundancies since Mr Grace arrived.

Mr Mann said: “I’m a big fan of Aegon. The purchase of Cofunds was entirely logical.”

The platform industry is undergoing its own change, with many platforms being bought up by larger companies amid predictions of waves of consolidation.

He said: “People have talked about it for a long time. What I see now is what I call sensible mergers and acquisitions. We’re not seeing consolidation as the businesses are going bankrupt – we will see more logical acquisitions as and when.”

Mr Mann speaks from a certain vantage point, having been in charge of one of the largest platforms for five years at Skandia, which has since been rebranded under the name of Old Mutual Wealth. But this company is undergoing its own changes, as Old Mutual Group breaks up and floats various parts, including Old Mutual Wealth. Does he think it will work?

Mr Mann said: “It’s a hugely well-capitalised business. Parents don’t want to keep digging their children out, and you don’t get listed on the London Stock Exchange unless you’re a well-capitalised and well-governed business. I have no fear in that regard.”

Mr Mann’s role at Guardian will be as non-executive chairman, running the board and ensuring that the business is well governed. 

He said: “It’s impossible to say [how many days a week I will work]. What happens with a non-executive chairman’s position is that we are available to the business, but I’m the sort of person who likes to be involved. They needed to be clear that I would be fully engaged in the business.”

Guardian has been relaunched into the protection market, after being a closed life business for more than 10 years. The plan is to help people engage more easily with protection products that have broader definitions. It is a new company.