Hardest part is behind us, Aegon chief tells UK staff

Alex Wynaendts, the head of pensions giant Aegon, yesterday assured staff at the firm’s UK business in Edinburgh that “the hardest part is behind us”, but warned that the economic environment remained daunting.

The chief executive of the Netherlands-headquartered group said its UK operation had “closed a chapter” and was now expected to recapture the “pre-eminent position in the market we deserve” in 2012.

Last week, Aegon UK confirmed it had cut £71 million of an expected £80m from its annual budget by the end of this year. The cuts have seen the firm shed more than 1,000 jobs as well as angering staff and unions by slashing its employee pensions.

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Wynaendts said Aegon UK’s move to offering a pension asset “wrap platform”, which was launched last week, came at the right price and at the right time for the firm.

“We have had an opportunity to see what is best practice in the market,” said Wynaendts.

“We had an opportunity to invest in a platform proposition which has learned the lessons from the past. We are spending amounts of money which are a fraction of what I have seen being spent by a number of players in the market.”

He said the senior staff he met in Edinburgh, where Aegon employs about 2,000, “realise the hardest part of the work of fixing the past is behind us and we are looking forward”.

“It is, of course, an environment that is not an easy one, but the strategy being taken here in the UK in the last 18 months is paying off,” he added, insisting that while the Dutch parent remained committed to the business, the UK firm now had to grow its market share.

“We have a commitment to the UK, but the UK has to deliver on its promises. I’m comfortable that what I am seeing is management delivering on its promises.”