Standard Life chief executive Trevor Matthews has apologised for using a racist phrase.
Matthews made the remark while addressing over 550 Standard Life staff at a meeting organised by Amicus last week in Edinburgh to discuss changes to the company’s pension scheme.
In response to a question on why the proposed closure of Standard Life’s final-salary scheme was buried on page 126 of the prospectus on demutualisation, Matthews said: “That’s the nigger in the woodpile.”
A formal complaint was later lodged with the company by a member of staff.
The following morning, Matthews circulated an apology to all staff, saying: “I would like to apologise to you for using an inappropriate phrase during my presentation at the first pensions briefing.
“I deeply regret saying what I did. It is not in any way a reflection of what I think. As soon as the words came from my lips, I realised I had made a serious mistake by using a colloquialism that is not in any way acceptable today.”
Matthews added that he was against all forms of discrimination and said he would also be apologising to the individual who lodged the complaint.
Matthews said: “It was a terrible mistake by me. I am very upset about it and I deeply apologise. It was a phrase that was common in my childhood, I do not know how it slipped out and as soon as it did I was sorry.
“Anyone who knows me knows I am certainly not a racist, I am completely the opposite. I believe in the equality of the human spirit. I have never said it before in a public forum and I will certainly never say it again.”