Open letter to Mr CEO of Aviva

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Dear Mr CEO of Aviva

Yesterday I got a letter from your firm. Which was such an unutterably awful read that I am compelled to write this to you.

About 6 months ago, after a process to pick a pension for my staff, I chose you.  You seemed to offer the best combo of service, decently priced investment options and the sense that you would be around for the long haul. No frills. Just a pension service which would hopefully see my guys right.

Across Britain as compulsory pension schemes kick in, literally millions of people who have never invested before are getting letters like mine. For many, this will be their first taste of the investment industry. Can I tell you that I have been working in finance for nearly 20 years and I didn’t understand what your letter meant. Look at the image above as an example.

 I understand you have a regulatory process to comply with and you have to send out loads of boring stuff in the letter. But why does this prevent you from telling me the exciting stuff. The bits I want to know. The reasons I should be saving as much as possible, as often as possible, from as young as possible?

What would a clothes retailer, Amazon or Waitrose do if shopping with them got you free money? THEY WOULD SHOUT ABOUT IT!!!! I have a tiny line on my letter on p3 which details “Basic rate income tax relief at 20%” and the associated £ amount. Most Brits don’t know that this is effectively a free top up from the Government. Let’s tell them! This is good! Fanfare, lights, excitement!

And what is this pension thingy investing in? The Aviva Diversified Assets Fund II S6. Do what!?

Whoever came up with that name should be put in stocks for the day. This means precisely zero to any normal human being. Why not tell me that I am now the proud owner of a bundle of American, European and emerging market shares, with a big dollop of British bonds? You, Holly, now own a smidge of Apple, Facebook, China Mobile, Nestle and Microsoft. That’s interesting. That means something.

And nowhere have you told people that £1,000 given to you to look after 3 years ago would be worth nearer £1,300 today.

If this email finds its way to your desk you may smile knowingly and discuss with your peers how little I understand your world and the compliance restraints you face. Well I say that’s not good enough.

Now to be fair, your letters are no more awful than anyone else’s. I have picked on you because I happened to receive and open your letter. But being no more awful is hardly a badge of honour.

So here's my challenge. Stop doing ‘what you’ve always done’. Stop blaming compliance and the regulator (although I feel your pain.) And write a bloody decent letter which normal people will read without becoming catatonic in the process, or worse, feel stupid or confused because they don’t understand it and assume it’s their fault not yours.  You have the power to fix this.

Take one of those letters home this weekend and show your kids or your mates. Their faces will tell you what you need to do.  

Rant over. Have a good weekend everyone.

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Taming the workplace pension beast: a bosses’ survival guide

Holly Mackay explores what new rules will mean for small company owners such as her and their staff

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