Abrdn CEO ‘pitched sale’ of £368bn investment arm

Abrdn CEO Stephen Bird

Abrdn CEO Stephen Bird had “a personal preference” to sell the firm’s £368 billion investment management business after completing its acquisition of Interactive Investor last year, according to a report in London trade publication Financial News.

But the Edinburgh investment giant’s board vetoed his proposal in favour of keeping the group together.

The report said Bird presented the board with a paper setting out the group’s strategic options in June last year.

“People familiar with the discussions” said it was clear he had “a personal preference” for selling the investment arm.

An Abrdn spokesperson told Scottish Financial Review on Monday morning: ““Strategy is about asking questions and testing alternatives. We do that in every strategy session.

“We have an agreed strategic direction that we are executing against at pace.

“Investment management is the core of our business, and we are making it more efficient and more relevant to our clients.

“We recently announced the successful acquisition of Tekla Capital which enhances our Health and Life Sciences capabilities in investments, an area of significant growth potential in the years ahead.”

Abrdn manages and administers £496 billion of assets for clients, as at June 30, 2023. Its investments business manages £368 billion on behalf of clients – including insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, independent wealth managers, pension funds, platforms, banks and family offices.

On May 30, 2022, Abrdn said it completed its £1.49 billion cash acquisition of Manchester-based Interactive Investor (ii), the UK’s second largest investment platform for private investors.

Abrdn said all fund managers, including Abrdn, would have to earn their place among ii’s rated investments.