Standard Life's £300m unclaimed shares trust

STANDARD Life yesterday revealed that some 320,000 members have yet to claim their windfalls following this week's stock-market flotation - leaving £300 million of policy-holders' money languishing in a trust.

The trust is made up of cash and shares, and will be kept for up to ten years in the event that it remains unclaimed. The Edinburgh firm insisted that it was putting "a lot of effort" into finding the missing members, who come from all over the group's world-wide customer base.

"The ideal position for Standard Life is to have nothing left in the trust and therefore no trust," a spokesman said. "It entails expense in ongoing and potentially lengthy governance and administration."

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The shares element of the trust will be treated as if it had been claimed, with a full dividend and appropriate number of bonus shares being added as the years go on. This will continue until 2012, when the shares will be transferred to cash for the remaining four years.

Standard Life acknowledges that some policy-holders remain in the dark about the demutualisation - some by way of not opening letters that have obviously come from a financial services company. To combat this, the former mutual has sent follow-ups in plain envelopes, and on the back of brightly coloured postcards.

However, the group warns that it is harder to track down members who have moved house without registering a change of address, or those who simply are not aware of the type of policy they have taken out - in some cases by an ex-spouse.

Meanwhile, Standard Life shares fared rather less well on their second day of trading, closing down 1 per cent, or 2p, at 239p. But investors could reassure themselves with the knowledge that the price remained well above the flotation price of 230p, and Deutsche Bank announced that it was starting coverage on the group with a "hold" recommendation, and a price target of 251p.