City looks for early progress on Abrdn's turnaround strategy

Analysts will be looking for evidence that chief executive Stephen Bird’s strategy to turn around the fortunes of asset-manager Abrdn – formerly Standard Life Aberdeen – is starting to bear fruit when it reports first-half figures this week.

The recent controversial name change is part of a wider shake-up aimed at putting the business back on a growth path by focusing on asset-management, financial adviser technology, and direct-to-customer wealth management.

Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that although it was early days in the new strategy for the Edinburgh-headquartered business and tangible progress is “likely to be minimal”, any comments from management around progress to date will be scrutinised closely when it updates the market on Tuesday.

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“The group has work to do to convince investors it deserves the benefit of the doubt after years of lacklustre results,” Mr Hyett said.

CEO Stephen Bird is looking to capitalise on the group's strengths to get back to growth. Picture: contributed.CEO Stephen Bird is looking to capitalise on the group's strengths to get back to growth. Picture: contributed.
CEO Stephen Bird is looking to capitalise on the group's strengths to get back to growth. Picture: contributed.
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“It is on a mission to turn around a business that has been exceptionally unexceptional for some time. The group, now overwhelmingly focused on fund-management, is looking to cut costs while improving investment performance and expanding its distribution network. If it can do all three – charging fees on more money, for more clients, and on a lower cost base – it would be a heady mix for profits.

“Unfortunately it’s also a familiar playbook for any asset-manager and not one that always delivers,” he warned.

On Friday the group announced the appointment of State Street’s former head of marketing to its board as a non-executive director.

Hannah Grove will join on September 1, and Melanie Gee, the former UBS managing director who has recently been named chair at property group Grosvenor, will stand down on October 31.

Abrdn said Ms Grove brings more than 20 years of experience in a global financial institution in leadership positions in marketing and communications.

Commenting on the board changes, chair Sir Douglas Flint said Ms Gee had played a key role in the board's discussions of transactions that “delivered fundamental change to the structure and future direction of the group”.


He said Ms Grove’s “direct experience across brand, client experience, business and digital marketing and communications strategies will be of great value to our discussions".

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Last month it was announced that the firm’s chief investment officer Rod Paris will retire from his role at the end of the year, which will see a wider shake-up across the business.

The group’s four strategic units – public markets, real assets, solutions and central investments – will now report directly to Mr Bird, a former Citigroup banker who was appointed to head up the business last year.

The company unveiled plans for its name change in April under a rebrand created by London agency Wollf Olins.

The move, four years after the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management, raised eyebrows among analysts, with one saying at the time it was likely to leave investors feeling “dazed and confused”.

The company said the new brand “symbolises the transition under way to bring a clarity of focus, renewed sense of purpose, and drive for sustainable growth for shareholders, clients and colleagues”.

Mr Bird said the change was about the business “coming together under a single global brand with a determined focus on enabling our clients and customers to be better investors”.

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