Money Marketing reported in October that Aegon was developing a self-serve proposition.
Branded ’Retiready’, the platform launched on 30 April and offers both Isa and Sipp wrappers.
Aegon already offers two advised platforms – its retail and workplace platform Aegon Retirement Choices and One Retirement for individual pensions.
Suported on browser, tablet and mobile app, the D2C platform is geared around a ‘Retiready’ calculator, which scores consumers from one to 100 based on their desired retirement income, current earnings and expected retirement age.
Based on research with 4,000 consumers, Aegon found just 7 per cent of people achieved a score of 70 or more on retirement readiness. Aegon says a score of 70 or over indicates the consumer is in a strong position to achieve their desired retirement income.
The platform also offers risk-profiling tools. Consumers are given a risk profile from one to five based on attitudes to risk. Their investment is then channelled into an appropriate fund.
The underlying mandates for risk profiles two to five are currently run by BlackRock Volatility funds. Aegon says the funds are designed to de-risk during periods of increased volatility. The funds use active asset allocation and passive instruments.
The mandate underlying risk profile one is not currently available as Aegon is still in talks with investment managers. It says the strategy will be focused on capital preservation.
Retiready charges a platform fee starting at 0.5 per cent on assets up to £50,000, 0.4 per cent between £50,000 and £100,000 and 0.3 per cent on assets over £100,000.
Fund management charges are up to 0.38 per cent.
The provider says the platform will be available to orphan clients, new customers and could in future be offered to clients with an Aegon workplace pension.
Asked how it defines “orphan clients”, an Aegon spokeswoman says: “We define orphan clients as individual customers who do not have an adviser assigned to their policy according to our latest records and information, or where the assigned adviser is no longer authorised by the FCA. Due to the huge range of individual circumstances we do not apply a standard time frame for customer- adviser relationship reviews, instead we check their status on an ongoing basis.”
The software allows users to input data on pensions or other savings held elsewhere to build an aggregate picture of their wealth.
In Aegon’s 2013 accounts, the insurer said it had spent £7m on technology developments.
Although offered as a D2C proposition, the platform plans to add adviser charging at a later date.
Aegon UK chief marketing officer David Macmillan says: “Self-service for the sake of it is not the right outcome. What we want to do is make sure people make the right decisions.
“Digital technology allows us to take people on a journey with coaching at its heart. Over time it prompts and pushes and guides people to take decisions.”
He adds Retiready will make customers aware regulated advice is available.
He says: “We need to be engaging with them and if that triggers an advice moment then great. So we do not view this as one channel versus another channel.”
EXPERT VIEW: Holly Mackay
Aegon’s Retiready is a nice new D2C option with a focus on helping the less confident investor plan for retirement.
On the plus side, it is visually engaging and easy to navigate. There is a finite amount of investment choice with BlackRock supporting things behind the scenes which will be highly appealing to some customers. The retirement goal planner with sliders is really helpful and easy to use, providing immediate insights into actions that might help provide those leaving it all a little too late. It is easy to use on a desktop computer and an iPad.
On the negatives, well there is still talk of “volatility” and “risk” which will mean very different things to Aegon’s non-investment savvy target audience. And there is some awkward skating around the ‘channel conflict’ issue in a promo video with talk of this helping advisers. From what I can see it looks like a pure D2C play unless you are an adviser who has totally disconnected your advice fee from any product sales. Fees appear to be a max of 88 basis points all in – it would be nice to have seen some illustrations in pounds of this. If advisers have to do this, providers should have to as well. Finally there is some typical compliance-led language about the relationship between BlackRock and Aegon on the factsheets. Of the “we love them but we are not responsible for them” sort.
All in all, I think this is the way forward. It feels much more consumer focused than most, and it is interesting the actual investment building blocks are secondary in the positioning of this as a goals-focused solution. Other life companies should take note.
Holly Mackay is managing director of The Platforum