Gilbert: Standard Life Aberdeen will seek acquisitions

Stephen Bird

Martin Gilbert, the outgoing vice-chair of Standard Life Aberdeen, said in an interview with London’s Financial News that the Edinburgh-based investment giant will seek acquisitions under new CEO Stephen Bird.

Gilbert said the appointment of Bird, who previously oversaw Citi’s global consumer banking business, is an opportunity for Standard Life Aberdeen to make fresh acquisitions in the “difficult years ahead” following the Covid-19 crisis.

“The strength of the balance sheet is incredible,” said Gilbert.

“It’s one of the things that probably attracted Stephen to the business …

“Stephen will be really good on the organic growth front, and on some selective M&A.

“He has the strength of the balance sheet to build whatever he wants.

“I don’t think he’s taken the job to stand still.

“He’s taken the job to build the business.”

David McCann, analyst at Numis Securities, told Financial News that SLA “certainly need to do something with the capital.”

McCann estimated Standard Life Aberdeen could raise around £3 billion in additional capital by borrowing against its big stakes in Phoenix Group and India-based HDFC Life and HDFC AMC.

That could help it acquire an asset or wealth manager, he said.

“However, long suffering shareholders might well just prefer to see the capital returned to them, and the business improved organically,” said McCann.