Aegon UK boss urges Boris Johnson to 'make up lost time' on industry reforms

Adrian Grace, the head of Aegon UK, has urged the UK government to “make up lost time” and press ahead with reforms to Britain’s pensions system after unveiling a solid first-half performance at the Edinburgh-based group.

Adrian Grace is the chief executive of Edinburgh-based Aegon UK. Picture: Aegon
Adrian Grace is the chief executive of Edinburgh-based Aegon UK. Picture: Aegon

Hailing a “milestone” as assets on the company’s platform exceeded £140 billion for the first time, up from £128bn at the start of the year, Grace said Aegon UK had delivered a record £160 million dividend to its Dutch parent.

Underlying profit came in at some £61m while total assets administered on behalf of customers hit £173bn.

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He pointed to progress on several “significant” projects in the first half, including the final migration associated with the former Cofunds book of business.

The group acquired Cofunds from Legal & General in August 2016, but the integration process had been beset by a number of technology issues.In May some £8bn of assets and 300,000 Nationwide customers who manage their investments via Aegon’s Investor Portfolio Service, migrated to a new set of platform technology, the firm noted.

Grace, the chief executive of Aegon UK, said the firm’s workplace offering had gone “from strength to strength” as it begins to fully realise the benefits of the BlackRock defined contribution acquisition completed in 2018.

“I think Cofunds and BlackRock will go down in Aegon history as two of the most successful acquisitions that we have ever made,” he added.

Commenting on the broader trends shaping the life and pensions industry, Grace said the priorities of politicians were “arguably a bigger influence than any time in recent memory”.

He said: “Whatever your views on the pros and cons of Brexit, one thing we can say with certainty is that it has already absorbed a huge amount of government time and focus leaving little time to address other pressing concerns.

“We are pleased that the new Prime Minister has acknowledged this and we hope he and his team will now make up lost time in areas such as social care funding and pensions.

“For pensions, we need to push ahead with pension dashboards and the government needs to solve the technical problems that stop non-taxpayers getting the tax relief top-up they deserve and reform other elements of the pensions tax system which make higher earners fearful that if they save ‘too much’ they’ll be penalised.”

He added: “We need a consistent pensions policy and we need it driven from the top and we all need to know where we’re going. We must focus on what is going to help people with their long-term savings and well-being.”

Despite the current stock market turmoil amid concerns of a fresh global recession, Grace struck an optimistic tone.

“Our business model is very resilient and can easily ride these storms,” he said. “We are playing for the long term.”