Aegon profits hit by tech spending and lower sales

Life and pensions firm Aegon UK reported an 18 per cent drop in fourth-quarter profits today after ploughing more cash into technology that allows customers to access products on their own through its website.

Adrian Grace: Aims to grow digital services. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Edinburgh-based firm posted an underlying ­pre-tax profit of £18 million for the fourth quarter, down from £22m a year earlier.

New business was also down on a year ago, with life and pensions sales falling 28 per cent to £179m.

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The Dutch-owned firm said it was planning to address this by launching an online service aimed at customers without independent financial advisers.

Chief executive Adrian Grace said: “This year we will launch a technology-based solution for the non-advised market, which will then be offered to our adviser partners so they can provide a solution that best meets their customer’s needs while fitting with their post-retail distribution review business model.

“Aegon’s ambition is to get the UK ready for retirement and help cover the pensions gap by offering customers simple, rewarding and reassuring digital solutions that help them towards the retirement they want.”

He said that financial advisers were becoming more ­focused on the wealthy end of the market, leaving around 10 million people in the UK in need of a pensions system they could access on their own.

The firm has invested £7m in technology, including the self-service system. Grace said the group had taken on around 200 staff in Edinburgh to work on the new platforms.

He expects that side of the business will continue to grow, although he said many other skills were becoming outdated.

“We are going through a skills shift,” he said.

Aegon’s UK headcount has more than halved to about 2,100 since the start of 2011 as part of a plan to cut £80m off its annual running bill. Last year it moved to close six regional sales offices as more business went online.

Across the whole year, Aegon UK reported underlying earnings of £84m, down from £89m in 2012.