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Standard Life could exit independent Scotland

Standard Life could abandon its Scotland headquarters if the country votes in favour of independence later this year.

The insurer, which has been based in Scotland for 189 years, says it has “material concerns” about a number of issues that remain unresolved ahead of the referendum in September.

These include the currency that an independent Scotland would use, whether agreement and ratification of an independent Scotland’s membership to the European Union would be achieved by the target of 24 March 2016, the arrangements for financial services regulation, and the approach to individual savings and pensions taxation.

Standard Life chief executive David Nish says: “We will continue to seek clarity on these matters, but uncertainty is likely to remain.

“There are steps we will take based on our analysis of the risks. For example, we have started work to establish additional registered companies to operate outside Scotland, into which we could transfer parts of our operations if it was necessary to do so.”

Investment Sense marketing manager Phillip Bray says: “Standard Life is doing the right thing because independence potentially throws up a whole host of problems and it needs to have a contingency plan in place.”

Separately, the provider posted a 5 per cent dip in UK pre-tax profits, from £351m in 2012 to £335m in 2013, although the 2012 figure was higher than expected following a £96m professional indemnity insurance claim.

The spread/risk margin, which measures the expected profitability of Standard Life’s annuity business, grew  44 per cent from £107m to £154m.

Standard Life’s corporate pensions arm delivered profits of £90m in 2013, up from £88m in 2012, while assets on the insurer’s wrap platform increased 36 per cent from £12.2bn in 2012 to £16.6bn in 2013.

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