Aegon shuts HQ & advisers turn to Skype: industry responds to coronavirus

Aegon shuts HQ & advisers turn to Skype: industry responds to coronavirus

Pensions giant Aegon has shut its office after a member of staff was diagnosed with the coronavirus, while advisers are turning to Skype and working from home to protect themselves and their clients against the growing crisis.

On Twitter this morning (March 13), Aegon apologised to advisers, paraplanners and customers after they were left unable to contact Aegon, adding the office in Edinburgh Park had been closed due to a single confirmed Covid-19 case.

It added it was arranging an alternative communication route.

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An Aegon spokesperson said: “As a precaution we have closed our Edinburgh Park office following an employee contracting COVID-19. Our first priority is to the health and wellbeing of our employees. In line with government advice the member of staff and those that have come into close contact with them have been told to self-quarantine for 14 days and seek medical guidance from the local health authorities.

“We are currently liaising with the relevant authorities but as a precautionary measure we have closed the office for a deep clean and have told employees to work from home until further notice. We have implemented plans that enable us to provide continuity of service and thank all customers and advisers for their patience and understanding.”

Aegon was not the only firm to take measures in response to the public health scare.

Amid a nationwide effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, others too have implemented contingency plans.

The Financial Conduct Authority has already confirmed it was reviewing firms' contingency plans to assess whether they were suitably prepared for the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on day-to-day operations and client services.

The regulator said it was also looking at what steps had been taken by firms to support customers during the pandemic period.

Jason Hollands, managing director of business development and communications at Tilney Investment Management, said the company had a "very robust" business continuity plan which allowed staff to work from home on a secure IT connection. 

Mr Hollands said the company was navigating the outbreak with the use of videoconferencing and Skype, which all staff have on their desktops.

He said: "In the current environment, where some clients will want to reduce their travel and face to face contact, we are therefore making increased use of these facilities as well as telephone meetings. We have also encouraged staff to reduce travel and more are also working from home.

"We are confident that we have both the systems and flexibility in place to continue supporting clients during this period and, as you would expect, we are closely monitoring guidance from the government and health organisations."

He added: "We also operate from 30 office locations across the UK and have a multi-site approach to our main business functions, which provides the flexibility to move staff or activities to different locations if required. All client assets are held with third-party custodians, who have confirmed their staff can also work remotely if required."