It is said that the ancient Chinese cursed their enemies by saying ‘may you live in interesting times’. Post-RDR, it would seem that advisers are on the receiving end of this curse, with providers failing to deliver on promises.
This is not the first time I have expressed my frustration over the inadequacy of provider systems and controls, but
I have been fighting a client’s corner with Aegon for some weeks now. I am more convinced than ever that closer control needs to be focused on the provider end to protect clients’ interests.
The saga began in April when Aegon invested some of our client’s money in the wrong fund. We had told the company not to do so and it had confirmed our instructions, but went ahead and invested there.
Subsequently we requested a monthly income from an investment and Aegon paid the full year’s income in one transaction. In both cases it took considerable time and much chasing to identify the problem and resolve it. In addition, it has been difficult to ascertain if these mistakes had disadvantaged the client – and if so, to what extent. These incidents were followed by more.
Soon afterwards an Aegon administrator instructed a trade on the client’s account in error and assets were sold. Aegon has admitted its mistake and retrieved the assets on behalf of the client.
The client logged into his Aegon online account daily to ensure that his assets were reinstated and noticed yet another error – the account showed an adviser charge that was deducted twice.
However, getting to the root of the problem has been a nightmare. Aegon had assured us from the start that the systems and technology for its platform were top-notch and that it could handle all types of transactions.
Despite the claim that the systems required little human intervention, multiple errors occurred for this one client in a few months.
Aegon claims high service levels but the reality seems to be a different picture. We have spent many hours exchanging emails and phone calls with Aegon’s team and our overall impression is of a team that is under-trained and unable to meet promised deadlines.
The information provided to us contained errors or was in a format that was complex and misleading.
Aegon has offered our client compensation – a miserly £150 for the erroneous trade of his assets – but has offered him nothing in respect of the error made with the adviser charge. Of course, we should be charging our client for the hours we have spent unravelling the mess and we have calculated this at £10,000.
Aegon has acknowledged that work was necessary but has offered us just £2,500.
My feeling is that Aegon has failed on all counts: customer care, delivering on its promises, staff training, procedures and technology.
Carl Lamb is managing director of Almary Green