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Pension boycott of Aegon over Optas (Update)

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  • Pension boycott of Aegon over Optas (Update)

NETHERLANDS - FNV Bondgenoten, the largest Dutch union, is refusing to place any new deals with insurer Aegon, as it believes it has shown a "very unreliable" attitude in the Optas case. (Update with comments from Aegon)

Willem Noordman, treasurer with the union and the employees' chairman with the Dutch organisation for industry-wide pension funds, told IPE: "The behaviour of Aegon puts them in such a light that, as far as we are concerned, they are not very reliable."

He added: "We, in our role of pension fund governing board members, will consider very carefully before we chose with one or another connection that involves Aegon."

Hinting at Aegon's pension administration arm, Noordman continued: "Very clear agreements would need to be made, in which it is absolutely impossible for Aegon to touch pension money, because in the Optas case they have shown themselves to be very unreliable."

FNV's trust in Aegon in terms of pension has dropped to "next to nothing", concluded Noordman.

Industry sources close to the matter have argued Aegon, whose chief executive Johan van der Werf already stepped down in January, has seen its market value suffer under the boycott.

A spokeswoman refutes such claims and told IPE Van der Werf did not step down because of the Optas case: "Van der Werf has been with Aegon for 26 years and something like this would not make him step down," she said.

In a written statement, Aegon said today: "Aegon is in talks with various parties about the situation around reserved assets (so called ‘beklemd vermogen'). FNV is one of these parties, and we are disappointed that Mr Noordman apparently thinks it necessary to make such negative statements about Aegon."

According to the company, there are a number of official bodies which are currently evaluating the history of the Optas case. "Naturally, various legal aspects around (the coming into existence of) ‘beklemd vermogen' play a part."

The company added: "Aegon has no reason to doubt its legal position and will wait for the results of these investigations."

The group yesterday said its overall net quarterly profits were down by 26% to €648m compared to the previous quarter, mainly because of the dropping value of the US$. The annual profit is €2.5bn, a decrease of €600m.

Also, Aegon said its sales of  pensions in the UK dropped by 8% to £227m during the fourth quarter, driven by lower sales of both group and individual pensions, the insurer said.

However, the group said total pension sales in the Netherlands rose by 9% to €49m, "as a result of higher group sales in the institutional channel in particular". Pension premiums decreased by 15% because of lower single premiums.

Aegon added in its written statement to IPE today it has had to explain its position to various companies, but is adamant that the company can still service its contract with companies in harbours.

"Aegon has often said, from the moment of the Optas takeover, that we want to explain our vision." The company added though it will do this in personal conversation.

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Carolyn Bandel on +44 (0)20 7261 4622 or email carolyn.bandel@ipe.com

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