Keith Skeoch to bow out as boss of Standard Life Aberdeen: changes at Phoenix Group

Standard Life Aberdeen has unveiled a change of leadership after Keith Skeoch announced he was stepping down after five years as chief executive.

Skeoch was one of the key figures behind the mega-merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017. Picture: Graham Flack
Skeoch was one of the key figures behind the mega-merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017. Picture: Graham Flack

Skeoch, who was one of the key figures behind the £11 billion merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017, will be replaced by Stephen Bird, a former executive at US-headquartered banking giant Citigroup.

He will join the board of directors at the Edinburgh-based fund management heavyweight and take up the role of chief executive-designate tomorrow.

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Bird will take the reins from Skeoch following a handover period, and subject to regulatory approvals.

Stephen Bird is a former executive at US-headquartered banking giant Citigroup.

Skeoch will at that point stand down from the board after some five years as group chief executive and 14 years as a director, and will serve out the remainder of his contract as non-executive chairman of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Research Institute.

The shake-up at the top follows the appointment of Sir Douglas Flint as chairman of SLA at the start of last year. The firm had been running with an unusual co-chief executive structure that had been shared between Skeoch and Martin Gilbert following the 2017 tie-up. Gilbert stepped down from his co-chief executive role last year.

Flint said: “The transition from Keith Skeoch was always going to be a challenge to deliver, given the incredible scale and range of his contributions to the success of the company over many years. I am however extremely pleased to say we have found a truly worthy successor.

“I am delighted to welcome Stephen to Standard Life Aberdeen and am looking forward to working with him. He is an inspiring leader with a great track record and experience in leading businesses to harness digital technology to improve both productivity and the client and customer experience. This, coupled with his ability to create valuable partnerships and guide businesses through periods of major change, means that he is well placed to build on the strong foundations we have at SLA.”

Bird, who spent 21 years with Citi, said: “I am delighted to be joining Standard Life Aberdeen as its next chief executive. This is a company with a great history, a strong brand and an exciting future.

“The current crisis has highlighted the importance of active asset management as well as building greater resilience into personal financial planning.”

Skeoch added: “It has been a real privilege to serve on the board for the last 14 years and in particular the last five as chief executive.

“I know Stephen well and will leave my current role knowing the company is in great hands. He will have my full support during transition, as he will have on an ongoing basis from the great team which has supported me.”

Following the changes, the SLA board will be made up of five women and six men.

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Meanwhile, Phoenix Group, the insurer that acquired Standard Life Assurance in 2018, has outlined a shake-up at the top of its Scottish business.

Susan McInnes, who has spent more than ten years with Phoenix, and some 30 years in the life and pensions sector, is to retire from her role as chief executive of Standard Life Assurance and group director for Phoenix’s Open business later this year.

Andy Curran is joining as chief executive savings and retirement, UK and Europe as well as taking up the role of group director Scotland. At the same time, Claire Hawkins is promoted to the role of corporate affairs and investor relations director.

Curran, who will be based in Edinburgh, will join Phoenix during July and will work alongside McInnes “to deliver a smooth handover” before she steps down in the autumn.

Andy Briggs, chief executive of Phoenix Group, said: “Susan has been instrumental in the transition of Standard Life Assurance into Phoenix. On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank her for her service, and wish her all the best in her well-earned retirement.

“In Andy, a fellow Scot, we have an excellent successor. He brings significant experience of the life and pensions sector and an exceptional track record of delivering value for customers and shareholders.

“I’m delighted to welcome Claire to the executive committee. Her promotion to this newly expanded position reflects our commitment to enhancing our outreach to stakeholders,” he added.

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