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Brian Duffin

The chief executive of Scottish Life has not had a holiday this year. But, now the deal with Royal London has been secured, Brian Duffin plans to take himself off to his native Ireland for a well deserved break.

Duffin, 45, has spent his entire career with ScotLife and is pleased to have seen the company through such an exciting period.

He says the recent take- over announcement from Royal London secures a strong position for the company as one of the most financially stable in the market.

Royal London was chosen out of four possible contenders, all of which put serious bids on the table. The other runners are widely thought to have included Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society and GE Capital but Duffin is reluctant to disclose details.

Scottish Life has been looking for a company to stump up the cash to give it sound financial backing. Duffin says Royal London was the contender which proposed the most money for the company and was most certain of its offer.

He says: “Royal London is a very good fit for Scottish Life. It is a natural marriage. Royal London wants access to the IFA channel and Scottish Life wants strong financial backing.”

Instead of offering cash windfalls when the company demutualises, ScotLife is paying out £500 to each member to compensate for the loss of their membership rights.

Duffin says policyholders are getting a good deal and will benefit from cash and additional policy benefits totalling around £1.1bn.

Bringing together the £9bn assets of ScotLife with the £16.5bn assets of Royal London will bring the value of the combined assets to around £25bn.

But the deal has been widely criticised in the market. Competitors have been quick to scoff at the takeover, saying they cannot see why it is a good deal for ScotLife. Royal London is not seen as a strong brand and rivals are sceptical of the value the association with it can bring to ScotLife.

A link-up between the two life offices will not create a company robust enough to survive in the present financial climate, according to competitors, who add that the newly formed company could be the target of a takeover bid in the not too distant future.

The deal is widely viewed in the industry as a last-ditch attempt by ScotLife to gain some capital before it becomes an even less attractive option to possible bidders.

Duffin goes some way to substantiating this claim by saying ScotLife&#39s main objective was to gain some cash.

He says: “It has been a frustrating period for us for a number of years as we have wanted more capital. As a mutual, we are reasonably well capitalised but we would have to be more restrained in the future. We thought we should sell the company now rather than be forced to do it from a much weaker position in the future.”

There will undoubtedly be some crossover with departments, say rivals, although it is widely thought that ScotLife will retain a large degree of autonomy.

But one of the departments which might take the hardest hit is the asset management team. Duffin says ScotLife has tried hard to find a way to keep all its staff in the same places. But he claims it will not be possible to have both a base in Edinburgh as well as one in London as one team would inevitably be seen as weaker than the other.

ScotLife&#39s asset management operation is expected to up roots and head South to London. But this move has been criticised and it is thought it is likely to lose key people as staff are unlikely to want to relocate.

Perhaps staff uncertain of the move should talk to Duffin himself as he enthusiastic-ally advocates the advantages of London life and is confid-ent that many will jump at the chance.

Duffin, however, lives in Edinburgh, where he has been for more than half of his life. He is married with three teenage sons, all of whom he encourages to join him in his sporting pursuits. A keen golfer and football coach, Duffin enjoys his role as director of a local football team. He says this is the one thing he has done of which his sons approve.

He says the ups and downs of directing a football team bear no resemblance to his managing role in financial services. He says in a football team you are constantly looking for money which you then spend on the players. But in finance, you look for business but are spending the cash elsewhere.

Duffin says he fell into finance after initially wanting to be a doctor. This ambition was ditched after a short spell working in a hospital where he says he found doctors to be “fuzzy” in their role, relying on a process of experimentation to find cures, and he was looking for a more exact science.

The experience led Duffin to train as a mathematician and resulted in him entering the financial world.

Duffin talks with enthusiasm about financial services and says the value of IFAs as a distribution channel has never been so high. He says part of what persuaded Royal London to snap up ScotLife was the strength of the IFA market and a belief that consumers want independent advice.

He says: “The deal is a strong vote of confidence for the IFA sector. Despite all the regulatory challenges, IFAs have prospered. Royal London wanted to find a way of accessing the IFA channel as IFAs are a growing sector.”


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