AEGON has said it wants to grow its UK business amid the uncertainty around Brexit following a change at the top of the operation.

The Dutch financial services giant said it sees good prospects for the Edinburgh-based Aegon UK operation under the leadership of Mike Holliday-Williams who succeeded Adrian Grace in January.

Aegon UK is a significant player in Edinburgh with around 2,000 people working on company business.

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Mr Grace led work on a big shake up at Aegon UK, which the Dutch parent group thinks has left the business well positioned to compete in a developing market.

Under Mr Grace, Aegon UK shifted its focus from the sale of traditional pensions products to the provision of platform services that people can use to help them manage the savings they make for retirement.

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Announcing its second half results yesterday, Aegon group said the appointment of Mr Holliday-Williams signalled its continuing commitment to build on the strong foundation of the United Kingdom business.

“In the past years, the business has been successfully modernized, transformed and repositioned. From this solid base, the aim is to grow the United Kingdom business further by focusing even more on customer centricity,” said Aegon.

Before he left, Mr Grace noted that Aegon UK had been generating large amounts of cash for the group and highlighted the growth potential of the business.

Demand for platform services is increasing as people are required to take more responsibility for saving for retirement but the market remains fragmented.

Aegon UK achieved rapid growth under Mr Grace helped by acquisitions including the Cofunds business it bought for £140m in 2016 from Legal & General in 2016.

It faced challenges 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 compensation to customers of Cofunds and advisers.

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However the parent group noted yesterday that the UK business had achieved its target to achieve £60m annualised expense savings in respect of Cofunds.

Group chief executive Alex Wynaendts,said: “ In our growth businesses, we completed the Cofunds integration, thereby achieving the targeted expense savings and confirming our position as largest player in the UK platform market.”

Mr Holliday-Williams said the company’s digital solutions business, which includes platforms is contributing a growing share of earnings.

“This is largely due to us realising the benefits of managing our platforms from a common set of IT having completed the underlying technology migrations and other economies of scale,” he said.

Mr Holliday-Williams claimed: “We are uniquely positioned in the UK market in that we offer a complete range of adviser and workplace savings, retirement solutions, investments and protection products in one place that can be accessed by our customers at any stage in their lives.”

Mr Holliday-Williams said the company benefited from a strong contribution from its existing pensions business in the second half. He believes the 1.3 million customers should benefit from the deal to out-source administration of pensions business to Atos that Mr Grace struck in 2018.

Around 800 Aegon staff moved to Atos under the deal. Aegon UK employs 1,200 directly.

Aegon UK generated underlying earnings of €139 million (£122m) in 2019 compared with €128m in the preceding year.

The value of assets it managed for customers rose to £179bn at December 31, including £146bn platform assets.

It managed £158.5bn assets in total at the start of the year.

Aegon group noted that it plans to merge its European and US asset management operations.

It said: “This important step leverages its (Aegon Asset Management’s) extensive global resources to enhance customer outcomes and compete more aggressively with other major global asset managers.”

The group’s fund management business in Edinburgh currently operates under the Kames Capital brand, which is to be retired this year.

Mr Holliday-Williams held big jobs at Direct Line and RSA before joining Aegon UK.

Aegon Group, which has operations in Europe and the Americas, saw annual underlying earnings fall to €1.97bn in 2019 from €2.1bn. It noted the impact of lower interest rates in the Americas.