Standard Life’s assets business gets boost

OFFICIAL money-printing in the stagnant eurozone to try and kick-start recovery helped drive inflows into Standard Life’s funds in the first three months of 2015.

Keith Skeoch welcomed eurozone money printing. Picture: Neil Hanna

The trillion-euro bond-buying programme by the European Central Bank has driven down the interest paid on European government bonds, with investors moving into stocks and corporate bonds instead.

Keith Skeoch, chief executive of Standard Life Investments (SLI), the Edinburgh pension group’s asset management arm, said yesterday: “My funds saw very strong flows from overseas, and Europe in particular, as quantitative easing lifted the financial markets.”

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SLI’s funds under management rose 5 per cent in the first quarter to £258.4 billion. Assets under administration, a broader measure of performance, lifted 5 per cent to £312bn. Overall, SLI saw £3.7bn of net inflows of funds, excluding its strategic partner life business. Nearly three-quarters of this was from outside the UK.

Analysts said the latest update continued a trend of parent group Standard Life’s performance being powered by its asset management, rather than its life and pensions arm.

Pensions reforms ushered in by George Osborne this month that allow retirees to take their pension pots in lump sums had encouraged life and insurance groups like Standard Life to concentrate on products other than income-bearing annuities, analysts said.

JP Morgan said in a note after the trading update: “Standard Life continues to deliver consistently on net inflows in pensions and asset management.”

David Nish, Standard Life’s group chief executive, said that the firm had seen a strong start to 2015, also including the disposal of the company’s long-standing Canadian business and a return of £1.75bn to shareholders.

He said that the workplace pensions business was among operations “building momentum”, enjoying a 16 per cent hike in contributions on the back of burgeoning pensions auto-enrolment.