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Standard Life attacked over endowments

Outgoing Standard Life chairman Sir Brian Stewart came under fire from shareholders over the performance of the life office’s endowment policies at the first AGM since it became a listed plc.

Stewart described Standard Life’s results since demutualisation in July 2006 as “remarkable” which prompted questions from shareholders over the under-performance of their endowment policies.

In response, Stewart said: “We may have taken some unpalatable choices and made some tough decisions but we have continued to invest to ensure the long-term stability of this company.”

Group chief executive Sandy Crombie said: “We cannot conjure up money from the fund if it isn’t there. We have a surplus of £1.3bn in the fund but I do not believe this would cover the deficit.”

Shareholders pushed for a figure of the exact shortfall facing endowment policyholders but Standard Life was unable to provide this information.

Crombie said: “We simply do not have these figures.”

All resolutions were passed at the AGM which saw Amicus protestors gather outside the Edinburgh International Conference Centre to protest over proposals for staff pensions.

The dispute with staff has been running since the life office announced it would be downgrading the pension entitlement for its 7,000 staff and would sever the link between future service and retirement salary.

Crombie said: “We have been through major changes over the past three years. This time three years ago we were in a position where we needed strong improvement in our performance. Last year’s results were very strong.”

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