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Change At The Top Of Standard Life Aberdeen

Tom Burroughes

1 July 2020

Standard Life Aberdeen’s group chief executive Keith Skeoch is standing down from its board after a five-year stint that included UK-listed Standard Life’s purchase of Aberdeen in 2017, one of the major M&A deals in the UK asset management space. He will be succeeded by former Citigroup C-suite figure Stephen Bird.

Bird takes on the role as chief-executive designate as of 1 July. His appointment is subject to regulatory approval. 

Skeoch has been a prominent figure in the UK’s asset management industry and the Standard Life/Aberdeen transaction was an example of consolidation momentum in this part of the industry, affecting Scotland’s financial services sector in particular. In 2018 SLA sold its life assurance business to Scotland-based Phoenix Group, continuing a restructuring process. 

After a handover period to Bird, Skeoch will serve out the rest of his contract as non-executive chairman of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Research Institute, making the shift in the third quarter of 2020, said in a statement yesterday. 

“The combination of Standard Life with Aberdeen Asset Management and the disposal of the life business to Phoenix Group created an asset management business with scale, reach and potential, complemented by attractive opportunities in UK platforms and wealth businesses,” SLA said. “With integration well progressed and having built significant balance sheet strength, this appointment launches the next phase of evolution aimed at developing and expanding the revenue opportunities available to SLA and marks the culmination of a wide-ranging succession planning exercise.”

Skeoch has been a director at the firm for 14 years. 

In Bird’s case, he was most recently chief executive of global consumer banking at Citigroup, a position he held from 2015 until November 2019. Prior to that, Bird was chief executive for all of Citigroup's Asia-Pacific business lines across 17 markets in the region, including India and China. His 21-year career with Citigroup included various leadership roles in banking, operations and technology across the firm's Asian and Latin American businesses.

"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,” Sir Douglas Flint, chairman of SLA, said.

"I want to recognise Keith's great leadership over the past five years as both our chief executive and for a period as co-chief executive. He guided the company through its transformation arising from the merger with Aberdeen Asset Management and the deal with Phoenix Group amidst significant change in our industry. He has been a decisive and empathetic leader during the COVID-19 crisis and has supported the transition to new leadership selflessly, recognising that the post-COVID world brings a wide range of fresh longer-term opportunities and challenges that are best taken forward with leadership succession settled."

Following the transition and Keith Skeoch's subsequent retirement from the board, the board will comprise two executive directors, eight non-executive directors and the chairman. The board will be made up of five women and six men.

Bird’s remuneration package consists of a base salary of £875,000 ($1,073,586) per annum; a cash allowance in lieu of pension of 18 per cent of salary, and other benefits in line with SLA's pay policy. He will also receive an annual bonus of up to 250 per cent of salary, based on performance, and a long-term incentive share plan award of 350 per cent of salary for the period 2020 to 2022. This vests at the end of the period and must be held for a further two years. 

In Skeoch’s case, his 12-month notice period will start on 1 July 2020. After he presents the firm's 2020 half-year results on 7 August 2020, there will be a handover period until 1 September 2020 and when regulatory approval for Bird's appointment is received.

During his chairmanship of ASIRI, Skeoch will continue to receive his base salary of £615,000 per annum as well as his benefits and allowances in line with the terms of his executive service agreement.