Public Service Announcement: Aegon Pensions

Do you have a person pension with Aegon? If so, I suggest you ask them to double-check the statements they have been sending you, as they might well be incorrect. I’ve recently discovered that mine have been wrong to the tune of several thousand pounds for seven years.

This year I’ve been transferring all of my personal pensions to a SIPP at Hargreaves Lansdown. It has generally been a painless process. You fill in a form and sent it to HL, they contact your current pension provider and a week later the money is sitting in your HL account.

Of course, you’ll want to know how much is in your pension fund, so you know how much money to expect to be transferred. But your current provider will be sending you annual statements. As the stock market has been rising for a lot of the last twelve months, the amount you’ll get will almost certainly be a little more than the amount on your last statement.

But there will be two values on your statement. – the fund value (FV) and the transfer value (TV). FV is the amount your fund is worth if you leave it with the current provider. TV is the amount they’ll send to your new provider. Looking at all of my statements, FV and TV were the same amount. So all was well with the world.

I found that I had six personal pensions (I really have no idea why I had so many – it seems rather more than you’d need) and, over a period of a few weeks, I set the transfers going on all of them. Five of them worked fine – I got a little more money than I expected. The sixth was with Aegon.

One Friday afternoon I got a phone call from an adviser at HL. Aegon wouldn’t make the transfer unless I confirmed that I was aware of the current valuations. He read out the valuations that Aegon had given him. TV was about 20% smaller than FV. This meant that I’d lose about a fifth of my money if I transferred the fund. I asked him to put the transfer on hold until I could confirm this with Aegon.

Aegon’s customer support line is closed over the weekend, so I couldn’t speak to them until Monday. But I double-checked my statements. There was a different between FV and TV in 2007, but since 2008 every statement had shown the two values to be the same. And, naively, I assumed that my statements were accurate.

On Monday I called Aegon. Their customer support people tried to help but really all they could do was to pass my questions on and tell me to wait for ten days or so.

A couple of weeks later I got a reply which basically just said that my statements were wrong and that, yes, there was a 20% early exit fee on my plan. I wasn’t happy with that so I wrote back to them asking how their system could issue incorrect statements for seven years without anyone noticing.

Today I got a reply to that letter. Here’s what they say:

Statements are system generated reports which are issued annually. These are usually issued directly to Policyholders or Financial Advisers without being checked. It was only when you brought the error regarding values to our attention the the matter has been investigated and future automated statements have been inhibited.

So there you go. There was apparently a bug in Aegon’s system which went undetected for seven years, until I tried to transfer my pension fund away from them.

I’m going to continue to try and find out how I can get my money out of Aegon without losing a large chunk of it. Given that most of the industry doesn’t work the same way that they do, I suspect my best approach is to accuse them of mis-selling the policy in the first place.

But if you have been receiving statements from Aegon over the last seven years, I’d ask them to check the values if I was you. Let me know what you find out.

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