Standard Life Aberdeen Sees Slower Exodus, Slashes Dividend

Standard Life Aberdeen Plc clients pulled more cash from the fund manager in 2020, but at a far slower pace than the previous year.

Net outflows totaled 29 billion pounds ($40.2 billion) last year, compared with 58.4 billion pounds in 2019, according to an earnings statement on Tuesday. Withdrawals were tempered by buoyant markets, with assets under management dropping slightly from a year earlier to 534.6 billion pounds.

The firm cut its full-year dividend by around a third to 14.6 pence as adjusted pre tax profit fell 17% to 487 million pounds. The company’s shares fell as much as 3.3% in early London trading.

Most of the withdrawals were by a single client, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, which has been steadily pulling funds since a dispute tied to the mega-merger that created Standard Life Aberdeen in 2017. Without those, net outflows would have been just 3.1 billion pounds.

“We have seen growing momentum in the second half of 2020 with improved investment performance and flows which represent an inflection point as we pull out of the post-merger era,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bird said in the statement.

Bird is seeking to turn around the money manager’s fortunes after being hired for the top job in September. He’s already rejigged his senior team and late last year outlined plans to reverse the investor exodus by building a stable of passive products that could eventually account for as much as 30% of assets at the active-biased manager.

The combination of Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life in 2017 was intended to boost scale, allowing the firm to compete with low-fee passive rivals that have seized an increasing share of the market in recent years. Some of the expected payoffs from the merger proved illusive as the firm struggled to handle two co-CEOs, multiple brands and more than 600 funds, while the company’s market value has shrunk.

The firm said Tuesday it plans to rebrand its various divisions under a single name, while also moving ahead with exits from Indonesia and Nordic real estate as well as the sale of its Parmenion platform.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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