Gilbert touts US distribution as Stan Life merger aim

Keith Skeoch, left, and Martin Gilbert, co-CEOs of Standard Life Aberdeen

Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert said in an interview that bigger distribution in the United States would be a key ambiton of the combined Standard Life-Aberdeen Asset Management firm when the companies complete their merger to create the UK’s largest active fund manager with about £660 billion of assets.

Gilbert also hinted the combined firm could be called Standard Life Aberdeen at plc level and Aberdeen Standard Life at asset management level, although he said work still had to be done on the naming.

Asked in an interview with Citywire if the combined firm would eye acquisitions in the United States, Gilbert said: “I think what we’d like is better distribution in the US than necessarily scale in the US.

“I think to go to the US and try and compete with the big equity guys in large cap US equities would not be sensible because already that area is under pressure.

“So what we really want to do is take our products to the US and I think this added scale gives us the ability to build a bigger distribution capability in the US …”

Asked if that meant organic growth or possibly acquiring a distributor in the US, Gilbert said: “I think we’d look at both but I think invevitably its probably organic growth certainly in the short term while we integrate these two businesses …”

Edinburgh-based Standard Life announced in March it agreed to buy Aberdeen for about £3.8 billion in an all-share transaction.

Standard Life shareholders would own 66.7% and Aberdeen shareholders would own 33.3% of the combined group.

Standard Life CEO Keith Skeoch and Gilbert would be co-CEOs of the combined firm, an arrangement some shareholders are not happy with.

“One of the reasons this transaction works is we are trying to form this world class asset management-investment comany based in Scotland,” said Gilbert.

“The two organisations are very complementary. We are strong in global, emerging.

“Standard Life Investments are especially strong in solutions … Standard Life itself is a market leader in defined contribution pensions …

“The trend is definitely going towards solutions in the world, providing a solution for clients …

“We are very reliant on defined benefit. This takes us into defined contribution.”

Asked what the combined firm would be called, Gilbert speculated: “At the plc level it’ll be Standard Life Aberdeen. At the asset management level Aberdeen Standard Life … those sort of … and obvioulsy the life company there’s no value in adding Aberdeen to the very famous Standard Life brand,” before adding there was still “a bit of work” to be done.

Gilbert added: “At Aberdeen, we’d love to have owned distribution.

“One of the weaknesses of the Aberdeen model was of course we didn’t own any distribution …

“One of the great strengths of Standard Life is .. I keep coming back to definied contribution …

“So retail will be an important part of the combined group.”