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Gilbert shrugs off a £4.4bn asset outflow

Aberdeen Asset Management's creator Martin Gilbert has brushed aside a £4.4 billion asset outflow and said the group is winning business in key growth areas as it continues to "reward shareholders" alongside executives.

POSITIVITY: Aberdeen Asset's founder Martin Gilbert pointed to growth in property, emerging bonds and high yield.
POSITIVITY: Aberdeen Asset's founder Martin Gilbert pointed to growth in property, emerging bonds and high yield.

Aberdeen shares dropped 5% in early trading as the group unveiled a first quarter drop in gross inflows to £6.8bn from £9.6bn in the previous quarter and a net outflow up from £3.6bn to £4.4bn.

But the shares quickly rallied, closing up 2.3p at 451p, and Mr Gilbert said: "The share price is flat today even with our not great flows for the business, which shows there is a robustness."

He went on: "Property, emerging bonds, high yield, a lot of the stuff we said we would grow, is growing, the negative is the lack of inflows into emerging markets because sentiment is so poor."

Total assets fell by 4%, from £200.4bn to £193.6bn, with equities suffering a £3.1bn outflow.

Mr Gilbert said: "We are seen as a proxy for emerging markets which is fair enough.

"But a large percentage of our business is not related to emerging markets and the SWIP transaction helps that enormously."

Shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in Aberdeen voted 86% in favour of the group's remuneration policy, in one of the first binding three-yearly votes by shareholders under new government provisions, despite concerns by shareholder groups about "excessive" rewards.

Mr Gilbert, who received £5.1 million last year, commented afterwards: "Other people are paid more than me in the industry.

"I am always delighted with my remuneration. If we do a good job for our clients, we do well, if we do a bad job for our clients we do badly."

He said the company had held 50 to 60 meetings with shareholder representatives last year, and there was "no great advantage in being a first-mover".

The vote in favour of the remuneration report for last year was slightly higher at 89%.

Asked by shareholder Forbes McCallum why both Pirc and the ABI had been critical of some aspects of pay policy, remuneration committee chairman Simon Troughton told the meeting: "ABI and ISS who represent the vast majority of shareholders both voted for the policy."

He told shareholder John Cruickshank that the "clarification" of policy which will deny future executives bonuses as part of pay in lieu of notice was a "very very small" change which had ensured support for the overall policy.

Mr McCallum commented afterwards: "I think shareholders will be very happy with the performance. The results speak for themselves."

Questioned by Mr Cruickshank, Mr Gilbert told shareholders that the group's strategic partnership with Lloyds was a "vital part" of the £650m acquisition of SWIP, as Aberdeen stood to benefit from the growth of Lloyds' wealth management business.

He said: "Lloyds' strategy is to become very boring. They want to grow the wealth management side of the business, starting from a very low level , and they see quite significant growth potential."

Mr Gilbert said Aberdeen had "learned a lesson" when they bought businesses from RBS but were unable to benefit from the growth of its (Coutts) wealth business. "We have structured the transaction more cleverly than in the past," he said.

Bill Rattray, finance director, explained afterwards: "We will pay additional cash to the extent that Lloyds' wealth business manages to increase revenues." Aberdeen's 'trusted partner' status was not an exclusive tie but an "incentive to get (our) products performing well".

He said the deal, which will propel Aberdeen to the top of the European fund management league with £350bn of assets, should be completed by the end of March but the regulatory process "takes longer than it would have done five years ago".

In the meantime, the Aberdeen and SWIP integration teams "can't get down to a granular level until we have permission to proceed".

Mr Gilbert said: "We have a strong new business pipeline which is expected to deliver an additional £2bn AUM in early 2014 across a range of asset classes and geographies."

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