It is almost as if Standard Life's with-profits fund is the worst kind of bandwagon-jumping, buy 'em high and sell 'em low naive investor.
The life office bet big on equities and lost as the market fell and continued south. In the last two years many life offices, including Standard, were forced sellers of equities.
The FSA then got embroiled in what were obviously bruising negotiations on new reporting requirements questioning Standard's accounting practices, the extent of its guarantees and the practice of factoring in the benefits of mutuality.
And now? Standard's with-profits fund holds around 35 per cent in equities, down from 59 per cent in December last year, according to independent consultant Ned Cazalet, losing millions of pounds of stockmarket gains in just the last few weeks.
Clients, including thousands who moved from Equitable Life on the reasonable recommendation of advisers, may face a future of below-par returns based on this asset allocation – unless bond markets turn 100 years of economic history on its head.
Clearly, the original decision to go big on equities against the grain of market opinion showed that Standard was far too arrogant. This trait was also displayed in arguments about financial strength with analyst Ned Cazalet and in the way it was caught out by regulatory reforms announced more than a year previously.
As for the FSA – many will ask whether it has compounded the insurer's mistakes and cut off Standard's only exit strategy – the stockmarket. Could it have allowed a transition period? Has its woeful performance over Equitable prompted a destructive bout of regulatory paranoia?
Standard Life is wounded but, for the sake of its investors and their advisers, let us hope it can recover.