AEGON UK’s new chief executive, Mike Holliday-Williams, has underlined his confidence in the financial services heavyweight’s strategy after the business grew profits in the first half amid challenging market conditions.

The Dutch-owned firm said the 17 per cent increase in earnings it achieved in the six months to June 30, to £71 million, reflected reductions in its cost base and a growing contribution from the platforms business it has decided to focus on. Aegon UK, which employs around 1,200 people in Edinburgh, has used acquisitions to build a big position in the market to provide online platforms that people can use to manage their savings and investments.

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Mr Holliday-Williams said Aegon UK has a resilient business that has been performing well.

He noted: “Our performance gives us confidence that we are focused on the right markets.”

The growth Aegon UK achieved in the first half followed completion of the integration of the Cofunds business the company bought for £140m from Legal & General in 2016.

Aegon UK faced challenges after migrating 400,000 Cofunds retail customers on to its systems.

The company said yesterday: “The growth in earnings reflects an 11% reduction in our cost base as we realise the benefits of having consolidated our platforms on a common set of technology.”

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Aegon UK said platforms were the big drivers of first-half sales and account for a growing proportion of its earnings.

Demand for platforms is increasing as people are required to take more responsibility for retirement.

The company shifted its focus to platforms from the sale of traditional pensions products under Adrian Grace, whom Mr Holliday-Williams succeeded in January.

Aegon UK outsourced administration of its remaining pensions business to Atos under a deal Mr Grace struck in 2018. Around 800 Aegon staff moved to Atos under the deal.

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Employees of Aegon UK are currently working from home. The company said it had not used the UK Government’s furlough scheme or made anyone redundant this year.

Regarding assets under management, it noted: “The gradual recovery in stock markets following the coronavirus sell-off has meant that total assets in the business have largely rebounded and now stand at £174 billion – close to the level where they started the year.”