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Thoresen set for ScotEq decision

Aegon UK chief executive Otto Thoresen faces some challenging decisions in his first months in charge with the firm set to determine the future of the Scottish Equitable brand and its role in the stakeholder market.

Thoresen, who was previously finance director, says Aegon will make a decision on the ScotEq brand by the end of the first quarter and finalise its stakeholder plans by the end of this month.

Diversifying Aegon’s distribution strategy remains a key priority for Thoresen and the company is in discussions with several banks with a view to expanding its existing relationships in this area.

On the branding front, whatever the decision on ScotEq, the Aegon brand is set to become more prom-inent, reflecting the fact that UK assets under management account for less than a fifth of the business’s global total.

Thoresen says the ScotEq brand lacks resonance with consumers, particularly compared with major rivals such as Legal & General, Norwich Union and Standard Life.
He says: “We have to look at what is going to make us distinctive and how our branding approach should support this. We have relatively low consumer awareness compared with other organisations which spend a lot more on advertising.”

This has not been a big problem in the past, given the group’s focus on the intermediary market but it will be an issue if Aegon, which has typically been focused on sophisticated investors is to expand its relationship with banks to sell commoditised mass-market products.

Although he is not keen to comment on rivals, Thoresen is upbeat about Pru’s 1bn rights issue.

He says: “We are starting to see people begin to have more confidence in the long-term savings market.”

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