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Is there Standard Life after Trevor?

Imagine a conversation in the refectory at Standard Life.

“What”, says one, “did Trevor Matthews ever do for us?”

“Well, there’s the wrap,” says another.

“Yes, yes. But apart from the wrap what did Trevor Matthews ever do for us?”

“A chance of making a profit on the pensions business.”

“Sipps.”

“Yes. But apart from the wrap, the profits, the Sipps… what did Trevor Matthews ever do for us?”

“Good relationship with the analysts.”

“And the journalists, remember the journalists.”

“And kept the IFAs on board. Forget those IFAs at your peril.”

“Morale maybe not in the board room, but on the shop floor.”

“Yes but apart from the wrap, the profits, the Sipps, the analysts, the journalists, IFAs, the morale, what did Trevor…”

I’ll stop now. But I think there is a serious point to make about Standard’s Life after Trevor.

I certainly don’t want people to believe that I have shares in the Matthews plc nor do I believe that the board of Standard are anything like the People’s Front of Judea. The board of Standard led by Sandy Crombie have done remarkably well, given the position a few years ago.

Yet whoever devised the strategy or indeed carried it out, I can’t help feeling Standard needs to consider getting a replacement for Matthews rather sharpish.

But why, you ask, should the editor of Money Marketing care? Well, there are some IFAs whose exasperation at Standard has boiled over into contempt particularly those who suspect a secret direct agenda, but they remain a minority. Quite simply a huge number of advisers rightly or wrongly still see Standard as a key partner for what they do.

As a business in transition, in a regulatory environment in transition, where no-one in any life office is certain about the future of wrap or indeed how sticky any assets under management will prove to be, then I think it needs such a person while the overall chief is doing other things.

In addition, I can’t help feeling that had the big life offices moved on to a more sustainable basis years ago, then many of the current arguments – with providers trying to use the regulator to outmanoeuvre their distribution – would never have happened. And a life sector more at ease with itself and its strategy is probably better all round.

For that reason alone, I think a successful Standard Life is in advisers’ interests too and so I think Standard needs to find replacement, whoever and wherever he or she may be.

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