Standard Life history: One of the first Empire builders

An advertising poster for Standard Life from 1946 reassures customers on its 'strength', 'stability' and security'

Standard Life was not the first insurance company in Britain, but it was among the earliest.

Initially called the Insurance Company of Scotland, the firm was founded in Edinburgh in 1825. During the 19th century it opened offices in far-flung parts of the Empire, including Canada and India, Shanghai and Uruguay.

It became a mutual society - owned by its members - in 1925 and by 1960 was the largest in the UK. In 2000, it fought off "carpetbaggers", who believed a demutualisation and flotation would bring windfall payouts to policyholders averaging 6,000 and create a company worth 12 billion. Following the dotcom crash and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the firm faced a crisis in the value of its investments and in 2004 it slashed 1,000 jobs.

After years of fighting the carpetbaggers, Standard Life decided to give up its much hailed "benefits of mutuality" and become a publicly listed company. Chief executive Iain Lumsden resigned and was replaced by his deputy, Sandy Crombie. The firm floated in 2006 and immediately joined the FTSE 100 list of the UK's largest public companies. Last year, Sir Sandy stepped aside after a 40-year career at the group. David Nish stepped up from his role as finance director to become chief executive.