The RDR is transforming the way the business of financial services and is predicted to change the way most people access financial information, advice and financial products. Workplace savings is widely tipped to be one of the growth areas of financial services and Aegon workplace managing director Angela Seymour-Jackson is amongst those who expect big things of the sector.
Seymour-Jackson joined Aegon in May 2012 and was appointed to the newly created position of workplace managing director in December.
She says the new business and her job stemmed from a decision by Aegon chief executive Adrian Grace to restructure the business to create a focus towards workplace saving and retirement platforms.
She says: “Aegon had a really good opportunity that Adrian didn’t feel he had all the right capability in the business to add to that, but also really to galvanate the business around this opportunity.”
After completing a masters degree in marketing, Seymour-Jackson started her career on a management trainee programme with Norwich Union, now Aviva. She was asked to stay on at the company to become head of market research within the general life sector. At the time Norwich Union was embarking on its first proper marketing vision within the general insurance business and she says this fitted her.
She then moved on to various roles within the business such as affinity marketing manager for General Accident, director of partner and market strategy, and distribution director for Aviva UK Life in 2008, which she says was one of the highlights of her career.
“I had so many years in general insurance and ran businesses there. I went there really because the challenge of the change that company needed to go through because it was exciting.”
She says some people found it odd that she decided to change from working with general insurance to life insurance.
“A lot of the things about running that business are remarkably similar so we were trying to change the culture, we were trying to get closer to the customer and diversifying distributions.”
In 2010, Seymour-Jackson took on the role of chief executive of RAC which had been acquired by Aviva in 2005, to prepare it for sale. In 2011, the business was sold to Carlyle Group for £1bn.
Seymour-Jackson’s focus is now on the workplace savings market. Aegon launched its workplace platform last year in order to encourage auto-enrolment engagement among employers. The platform is an additional part of the Aegon Retirement Choices retail at-retirement platform.
Seymour-Jackson says that from research in the market, people are increasingly looking to their employers to provide access to savings and advice in the workplace.
“People are used to transacting so much of their life online and so whilst it is an early developing market, people are very comfortable transacting many things online and managing their accounts online. They want the visibility and simplicity that these platforms offer them.”
But she says this trend could help encourage people to seek face-to-face advice, particularly on pensions.
“Fifty per cent of people aren’t even saving for a pension so anything thing we can do to drive up that level of engagement is going to be a positive.
“One of the great things about our platform is because it is the only one in the market that covers both workplace and at retirement, if you are saving for a pension in the workplace using our platform you can also, as an adviser, add in individual assets you have got and you have still got your adviser who advises you on those. They have access to the platform and can advise you so if anything I think it may actually help.”
She says that that although the platform is in its early days, it is already seeing a high level of interest from employers.
“There is a huge amount of positive comment and feedback and lots of interest. I expect it to be huge. This will be the main stay of our corporate business, there is no doubt about that.”
With the launch of the workplace platform, Aegon initially offered a promotion of a 50 per cent refund of the employers’ first three months contributions, available to new employers who signed up to ARC. However, Aegon decided to cut this promotion short due to the phenomenal success of the offer.
“I think we knew it would be successful but it surpassed our expectations and so as you do with all of these offers, because of the level of exceptional response to it, we came to the decision to withdraw it at that point.”
The workplace savings market is in its infancy and has been designed with the RDR in mind but Seymour-Jackson says the evidence they are hearing suggests that advisers are coping well with the change to the new rules.
“I think in terms of what we see from advisers we talk to, some of the aspects and particularly in terms of qualifications aspects for example, people have embraced that and they have adapted really well. I think in terms of charging, models are in place but I don’t think we will really see the impact of that until we are well in to 2013.”
Although advisers seem to have adapted well to the RDR changes so far, Seymour-Jackson believes that any more changes, such as NEST’s call to scrap its current restrictions by 2017, could cause advisers to feel unsettled in the industry.
“We do think the industry is going through a lot of change, that is positive and we are supportive of that, but for advisers, firstly they need clarity.
“It is early days for NEST and we need to see this start to work. It was clear what the position of Nest was and we are all just going through the early stages of working with NEST. Employers and advisers are understanding how it would work, so changing the restrictions before things have really got under way seems a little premature.”
Born: Southampton, 1966
Education: BA in French and European Studies, MSc in Marketing
Career: 2012-present: managing director, workplace, Aegon UK; 2012-present, non-executive director, Rentokill Initial; 2010-2012: chief executive, RAC; 2010-2008: distribution director, UK life, Aviva; 2006-2007: distribution director, Norwich Union; 2005-2006: partnerships director, Norwich Union; 2004-2005; director of retail bank partnerships, Norwich Union; 2000-2004, director of partner and marketing strategy, Norwich Union Insurance; 1999-2000: founder member and marketing director, Bluecycle.com; 1998-99: head of marketing consultancy, CGU insurance; 1997-98: affinity marketing manager, General Accident; 1995-97: head of key accounts, Norwich Union; 1992-94: head of market research, Norwich Union Insurance,
Likes: Excellent customer service, good wine and skiing
Dislikes: Bad attitudes
Drive: Mercedes Estate
Book: To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Film: Pulp Fiction
Album: Boy by U2
Career ambition: I want to make teams of people successful
Life ambition: To see my children succeed and thrive
If I wasn’t doing this I would be: Running an animal rescue centre