‘Standard Aberdeen’ – new name, some culture challenges

BY Julian Gorham

There are different views about the merger announced yesterday between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management. For some, it’s a genuine attempt to provide customers with an improved and more differentiated offer able to compete with global players on a much wider scale. For others, it is a sign of weakness – an act of desperation by both companies looking to glean £200m in annual cost savings in the face of the rise of cheaper, passive fund managers.

Either way, the merger is big news for the Scottish financial services industry – and for everyone involved, especially employees. One thing we can certainly say is that it already seems to be a more natural cultural fit than Agent Provocateur and Mike Ashley.

Standard Life has said that the new name will incorporate both its name and that of Aberdeen’s and be based in Scotland. Martin Gilbert from Aberdeen and Keith Skeoch from Standard Life will be co-chief executives of the new group.

The CFO will be from Aberdeen and the CIO will be from Standard Life. The board of the group will be a combination of executives and will have an equal number of directors from both companies.

The current Standard Life chairman will be the chairman of the group, and the current chairman of Aberdeen will be the deputy chairman.

Job losses will occur only where there are duplicates they say and cultural changes are ‘likely to be minimal’.

It all sounds neat enough. Even so, there will be work to do. Bringing some 11,000 people together in these circumstances will need careful management and considered communication. The feeling is that these two employers will want to be seen to act decently if redundancies are to be made (‘they’re not hedge fund managers, after all’ – someone has said).  And everyone will be waiting to see how the chemistry between Keith Skeoch and Martin Gilbert develops. How they lead will undoubtedly set the tone – and trajectory – for the entire enterprise.