Standard Life-style will keep firm here
I spent many years as a fund manager within Edinburgh’s financial sector and it is clear to me that to move lock, stock and barrel would constitute a far bigger business risk to Standard Life than any impact of Scottish constitutional change.
I would therefore urge the media and the public to look at what Standard Life actually said. In essence, it said that in certain post-Yes vote circumstances the company would consider moving some assets and some staff to ensure that assets and liabilities remain well-matched. This is reasonable contingency planning.
In addition to its financial strength, a company like Standard Life rests on two pillars: its brand and its people. Fund managers, for example, can earn greater riches elsewhere if they so choose.
The reason why many in Scotland are here is because of the lifestyle; a work-life balance trumpeted by Standard Life Investments’ recruitment website.
Imagine being a fund manager with a large home in Edinburgh’s leafy Grange, kids happily settled at school. How would you feel about swapping your stroll across The Meadows for the 6:47am slog from the commuter belt to Liverpool Street? I was part of a department that faced such a choice. Almost all chose not to move to London.
Compared to London, Edinburgh has lower staff costs, lower office costs, lower housing costs, better staff retention and highly-skilled staff. In a people business such as this, wholesale relocation would not only be enormously costly, it would require the near-reinvention of the company.
There is nothing to suggest being part of a smaller country hinders a financial services industry. Switzerland has – in Geneva and Zurich – not one but two of the world’s top ten financial centres. Singapore, with five million people, is ranked fourth. Scotland’s financial sector can thrive under any of our constitutional options.
There is no doubt that Professor Bill Wardle (your report, 1 March) is absolutely right. The actions of the SNP are badly undermining Scottish business, whether we get a Yes or a No vote.
The confidence that people could once feel at the strength of home-grown businesses like RBS and Standard Life in their home market has been terribly eroded by the chumps in the separatist movement. The idea that Scotland under any of the parties that have been in power to date would be anything other than a high tax region is barking. Tax and spend is their credo, whether they are SNP, Labour or Lib Dem. If the big financial corporations do not leave due to the awful possibility (luckily a fading one) of a Yes vote, then the prospect of a socialist Scotland under either of the other two parties (or both together in an unholy alliance) must send shivers down the spine of any entrepreneur who might otherwise have thought of basing themselves in Scotland.
France has discovered that what happens when you try to slap high tax on people is they move to London. Rich Scots would do exactly the same.
andrew hn gray