Standard Life ‘well-positioned’ despite unsettled markets

Standard Life chief executive David Nish.

Standard Life chief executive David Nish. - Credit: PA

Standard Life more than doubled the number of auto-enrolment pension customers in the UK last year as pre-tax operating profits grew 19% to £604million, the insurance giant said today.

The group said it added more than 340,000 auto-enrolment customers in 2014, taking the total to over 560,000 since the process began.

Chief executive David Nish sounded an upbeat tone about the future saying despite unsettled markets the group was “very well-placed for the future”.

Mr Nish added: “We are also well-positioned to deal with the far-reaching reforms to the savings and retirement income rules in the UK and to support customers through these changes.”

Changes allowing people to unlock pensions savings announced in last year’s Budget had caused a “significant reduction” in demand for individual annuities and were expected to see a “step down in the profitability” in part of the group.

It pointed to a reduced contribution from annuity new business of £10m to £15m and from asset liability management of £30m to £40m in 2015.

But the group said investments made in the UK business in recent years had left it “well-positioned to benefit from evolving customer needs and regulatory changes”.

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“This, combined with our investment expertise and focus on providing value for our customers, continues to drive demand for our propositions across the retail, institutional and wholesale channels,” it said.

Standard said fee-based revenue during the year grew 14% to £1.43bn, boosted by its acquisition of Ignis Asset Management.

The deal also helped assets under administration grow 38% to £296.6bn.

During the year, Standard also sold its Canadian operations triggering a £1.75bn windfall for shareholders. It announced a final dividend of 11.43p making a total of 17.03p for the year, up 7.8%.

Mr Nish said: “Although investment markets are unsettled and may affect the near-term pace of asset and revenue growth, we are very well-placed for the future.”