AEGON UK chief executive Adrian Grace is to step down after leading a shake up at the financial services giant which has won praise from its Dutch owner.

Mr Grace will be succeeded as chief executive of Edinburgh-based Aegon UK in March next year by insurance sector veteran Mike Holliday-Williams.

The parent Aegon group said the appointment of Mr Holliday-Williams, who had held big jobs at Direct Line and RSA, signalled its continuing commitment to build on the strong foundation of the UK business.

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“We would like to thank Adrian for having successfully modernised, transformed and repositioned our UK business,” said group chief executive Alex Wynaendts.

In an email to staff members seen by The Herald, Mr Grace said he would leave the company in a strong position for continued success, after eight years in charge.

The former HBOS executive has led a reform process which has seen Aegon UK shift its focus from selling traditional pensions policies to providing online platforms which people can use to help manage their investments.

“We have grown our business from £40 billion of unit linked pensions in 2009 to today where we oversee £175 billion of pension and investment assets,” Mr Grace told staff.

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He said Aegon UK had established itself as a leading player in the platform market helped by acquisitions while finding a robust solution to its declining book in existing pensions business. Last year it agreed a deal to out-source administration of traditional-style policies to Atos.

Mr Grace has said the reforms have helped reinforce Aegon’s commitment to the UK market, which may have been in doubt ten years ago.

Mr Wynaendts said yesterday: “The company is now well positioned for further growth. We wish Adrian well in his deserved retirement.”

The reform process has not gone smoothly at times.

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The £140m acquisition of the Cofunds business from Legal & General in 2016 helped make Aegon UK a major player in the platform market but the company was left facing expensive complications after migrating 400,000 Cofunds retail customers on to its systems. Aegon UK had to put more than 200 people on to clearing backlogs and dealing with service issues and paid an undisclosed amount of compensation to customers of Cofunds and advisers.

Aegon UK has around 1,200 staff in Edinburgh.

A further 850 transferred recently to Atos under the out-sourcing deal agreed by Mr Grace.

The company had 2,400 employees in Edinburgh when Mr Grace took charge in 2011, but then shed 600 under a restructuring plan launched by his predecessor Otto Thoresen in the preceding year.

Aegon bought Scottish Equitable in 1994.