Aegon’s IGC has produced a Chair’s Statement which reads like a corporate brochure for the Dutch life insurance company.
The most used word in Ian Pittaway’s IGC report is “challenge”, but no challenge emerges. Aegon turn out to be get a green light on every metric but one, and that one that is easiest to change – Aegon’s communications with members.
Value for Money
Here is the Aegon value for money wheel of fortune
Note the unremitting optimism from the clip-art, note the unremittingly positive adjectives and ask yourself how anything could possibly go wrong.
In a chart which puts Pravda in the shade, the IGC demonstrate how the Aegon default investment fund compares with its principal rivals.
Who these “competitors are, we are not told, nor whether the chosen timescale has any particular relevance. There is nothing here that tells us how much risk has been taken by Aegon relative to the competitors – the entire comparison could be bogus. Yet this chart is used as evidence that Aegon’s investment solutions are valuable.
The report comprises a number of “challenges”, one of which is for Aegon to reveal trends in people transferring savings away from Aegon.
What the IGC is not reporting is that during most of 2017, Aegon refused permission for policyholders looking to transfer away from Aegon to do so. If you haven’t heard about the embargo of transfers to SIPP provider Pensions Bee, you can watch the video here. You can read about Aegon’s climbdown here.
Eventually, and too late for the numbers to be revealed to the IGC, Aegon did let their people go, but not before numerous complaints had been lodged against them by members furious that they had to keep their money with an insurer they had lost confidence in.
These Net Promoter Scores confirm the overall message from the IGC, but are in direct contrast to the numerous comments I have read by Aegon policyholders their basic right to transfer.
I cannot take seriously Aegon IGC’s value for money formulation. It appears to be grounded on a spurious basis of analysis. Far from protecting members, Aegon’s IGC appear to be protecting the provider, this means a red from me in my estimate of the IGC’s VFM assessment
Disregarding the eulogistic tone, the report is well written and consistent. It looks nice and is clearly confident that it is talking to the real issues of the Aegon membership.
Ian Pittaway works as a partner for Sackers who have been organising the benchmarking exercise carried out by NMG in 2016. It’s on the basis of this report that Aegon’s confidence is founded. I read the report last year and my memory of it was that all members really wanted from a workplace pension was a good outcome (aka – a big workplace pension).
The report does not detail the transaction costs of the funds used, does not give benchmarking of the performance of the fund (against named competitors) but does give us over 30 pages of opinion, all favourable to Aegon.
This isn’t engagement, it is propaganda. I’ll give the report an amber for its presentation but the amber is trending red- nobody reading this document could reasonably consider this governance committee “independent”.
This IGC was totally ineffective in its dealings with disgruntled policyholders looking to transfer away. The report makes no mention of the dispute with these policyholders. The views of members are supposedly represented through the NMG benchmarking but totally ignored when directly expressed to the IGC.
I have no difficulty in handing the Aegon IGC a straight red for its effectiveness.
Readers may by now have picked up that I am less than pleased with this report. Frankly I am shocked by it. It seems to fly in the face of the original intentions of the OFT and FCA in setting the IGCs up.
The report totally ignores the issues surrounding ESG, has nothing to say about innovation in retirement and doesn’t even provide us with transaction costs.
Although it looks good, the report is a failure and quite lets down Aegon workplace pension members.