Over the last 12 months, this column has explored the RDR plans of a wide range of life offices and platforms as they prepare for the most radical transformation that has ever taken place in our industry. This has included looking at what they are doing to help advisers prepare for this change as well as how it will affect these organisations’ own propositions.
As we enter into the last three months of what has been nearly a seven-year journey to RDR, it is now reasonable to revisit each organisation in the order they were originally profiled to see how much of what was promised 12 months ago has arrived.
The first company to be reviewed in this series was Aegon so it becomes the first to have a second assessment.
Twelve months ago, Aegon was a traditional life and pension provider which had not at that point made entry into either the individual or corporate platform space.
A year later, its individual business platform, which builds on impressive technology and administration foundations provided by GBST and Novia, is now approaching its first anniversary. Last month also saw it go live with its corporate platform proposition so that in less than a year Aegon has transformed itself from a non-player in the platform market to an organisation that should be given serious consideration by any adviser looking to focus on the approaching and at retirement market.
One thing that really distinguishes Aegon’s approach to the platform market is that it has made such a clear play for a specific section of the market.
While the platform market has been happy to target a wider range of potential investors, perhaps focusing on those with larger amounts to invest, generally, I struggle to think of another platform that has so overtly targeted a specific audience with its offering.
Turning from its clear platform proposition, a different picture appears when it comes to packaged products where it would appear that a “just in time” delivery appears to be the approach being taken.
The company’s Flexible Pension contract, to which it added an online capability before last summer, will be adapted to deliver adviser charging during the final quarter of this year.
At the same time, it is moving towards the launch of an adviser charging compliant drawdown product in a similar timescale and will be providing similar amendments to its offshore bond and guaranteed variable annuity contracts to facilitate adviser charging before the year end.
In the corporate market, its group personal pension and group Sipp will be extended to include consultant and adviser charging in time for the RDR.
Aegon believes there will be a considerable number of advisers continuing to write commission-related business all the way up to the RDR deadline and is committed to providing the resource to support such cases.
Head of at retirement marketing Rod McKie points out that the FSA has not set any specific guidance for life offices about how long after the year end they will have to complete business submitted before the year end.
This is apparently being left to individual companies and Aegon expects to announce its exact plans next week.
The company has come out with an impressive promise in respect of corporate business where, mindful of advisers’ concerns over revenue streams after the RDR, Aegon has said it will honour existing commission levels on auto-enrolled members of existing schemes as long as the profile of the scheme does not change significantly.
This compares positively with the wording of some other life offices agency agreements which were recently drawn to my attention.
Such a commitment obviously provides certainty to advisers and employers in respect of meeting advice costs where schemes are in place before the year end in respect of both increments to existing members and new members.
Few people in the industry would argue with the view that many adviser firms are a long way from completing their business transition and recognising the need to continue to help firms in making these important adjustments going into 2013 Aegon has extended the facilities offered under their Business Brain service to help firms transform their practices.
Recognising the role of social media and the major opportunity it represents for advisers, it has now added videos and fact sheets to help advisers develop a strategy utilising twitter and LinkedIn http://adviser.aegon.co.uk/Business-brain/Marketing-planning/Using-social-media-to-grow-your-business/index.htm.
In addition, to facilitate a wider range of input it has, in what is after all a rapidly changing landscape, enhanced the expert opinion zone http://adviser.aegon.co.uk/Business-brain/Expert-opinion/index.htm.
This looks at ideas and topical comment in four key areas – business strategy, RDR transition, marketing your business and developing professional connections. Aegon says this has become a highly popular service which is heavily used by its strategic accounts as news updates for advisers. A further service linking Aegon propositions to the real day-to-day needs of an advisers business is scheduled to be launched in January 2013.
Although it obviously has to put the necessary additional services live before the end of the year, it is clear that Aegon is making a special effort to enable firms to carry out as much business as possible before the end of the old regime while at the same time allocating further resources to help those firms which still have much to do to get ready for a deadline that is now less than three months away.
Ian Mckenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre