abrdn buys Exo as profit rises, assets slip to £532bn

Standard Life Aberdeen CEO Stephen Bird

Rebranded Edinburgh-based asset management giant abrdn on Tuesday posted a 52% increase in adjusted operating profit to £160 million for the first half of 2021 — and announced an acquisition that will allow it to offer digital wealth management via an app.

abrdn — formerly Standard Life Aberdeen — said net outflows reduced to £5.6 billion from £24.8 billion in the first half of 2020.

Assets under management and administration (AUMA) slipped to £532 billion from £535 billion at the end of 2020 “as reductions due to flows and corporate actions were partially offset by positive market movements.”

Fee-based revenue grew 7% to £755 million.

“This is the lowest level of outflows since the merger,” abrdn CEO Stephen Bird told Bloomberg TV.

“In March we promised we would arrest the decline of revenue in this business and we that would restore a profitable growth business, and we have done that.”

abrdn also said it will acquire AI-powered wealth management solution Exo Investing from Nucoro for an undisclosed sum.

“This is an acquisition of world-class, AI digital investing capabilities that will allow us to offer 24/7 digital wealth management via an app,” said abrdn.

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “There are number of positives in today’s results from Abrdn, following a tricky period of restructuring, cost-cutting, and rebranding.

“The reduction in net outflows, improved margin, and increase to profits, in particular, look positive, while the dividend remains in line with plans and is among the highest on the FTSE 100 – even after it was re-based last year.

“On paper, the shares look too cheap relative to the sum of Abrdn’s parts, which reflects worries about the company’s future direction in a rapidly changing and consolidating sector, as well as the continued pressure from a wider investor shift from active to passive investing.

“There are some positive signs, but despite some big moves over the last few years, there remain strategic questions over what is next for Abrdn.”

abrdn CEO Stephen Bird said in a statement: “We have made a strong start to the year and our three-year growth plan.

“These results, the first as abrdn plc, show a 52% increase in adjusted operating profit.

“Each of our three growth vectors have delivered higher revenue and profits, contributing to the highest overall rates of growth since the merger.

“Our strategy is about focusing on client needs.

“The improved flows into our strategically-important products and services show that we are answering client demand.

“The majority of the outflows that we are seeing are lower margin.

“Low interest rates and central bank interventions have created supportive market conditions from which we have benefited.

“Market volatility is expected to continue due to COVID-19 and its unequal effects in different parts of the world.

“We have made good progress in simplifying and focusing our business.

“The leadership team is now in place to drive the growth we seek through our strategic priorities.

“Our capital strength gives us the ability to invest in these priorities.

“We have a clarity of focus under our new brand and are better positioned to have impact at scale as a global business.

“We are at the beginning of the journey and we are moving at pace to build our new future.”