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Standard Life assets soar to record £244bn

The onward march of Standard Life's investment arm helped the Edinburgh-based group hoist assets under administration by 12% last year to a record £244 billion and attract 340,000 new customers.

Standard Life has lifted its dividend by 8% after reporting a 13% fall in pre-tax profit but a 19% rise in the underlying group result to £638m and a 15% uplift in fee revenue to £1.46bn.

There was a two-thirds rise in net new external cash poured into Standard Life Investments, and a one-third rise in external revenues, as SLI boasted 99% of its assets beat their investment benchmark last year. Over half of the net inflows came from outside the UK and SLI's pre-tax operating profit was up 32% to £192m, now making up 27% of group business profits as well as 36% of fee-based revenues.

David Nish, chief executive, said: "Standard Life Investments had a particularly good year with third party net inflows of over £10bn as a result of excellent investment performance, broadening geographical reach and an expanding investment offering."

He said underlying business unit performance, a new metric which excludes group centre costs and capital management, was up 25% at £704m thanks to Standard's continuing investment to stay ahead of the large-scale changes to our markets.

Last year saw the end of product-driven commissions to remunerate advisers, and the roll-out of automatic pension enrolment in the workplace. Standard's corporate pension inflows jumped by two-thirds to £1.2bn, "despite the impact of anticipated outflows from schemes secured by competitors on a commission basis prior to RDR (retail distribution review)", the group said.

Mr Nish commented: "In the UK we are capitalising on the opportunities created by the RDR and auto-enrolment. We attracted 340,000 new customers and increased assets by 13% to £150bn."

He added: "Our balance sheet remains strong. We are generating significant cash flows and have once again increased our dividend."

Cash generation was up 9% to £497m and the final dividend will cost £375m, with the 10.58p final making a total 15.80p.

The group's restructured and now fee-based Canadian business improved its underlying performance by two-thirds to £182m, with rises of 17% in assets and 15% in fee revenue. The Hong Kong and India businesses made a £6m loss (£3m profit) as investment in wholly-owned operations continued.

At home, the group said its retail platform was gaining market share, with auto-enrolment schemes launched at 290 companies as well as agreements with 22 strategic partners to help deliver them. "We now have relationships with over one-third of FTSE 350 companies," Standard said. "Our corporate business has a good pipeline for 2014 which includes significant auto-enrolment activity."

The Standard Life wrap platform boosted users by 9% to 1236 adviser firms, with a 41% rise to 228 in firms with over £20m of wrap assets. Around 25% of assets are invested with SLI. The MyFolio offering grew assets from £2.2bn to £4bn, as the wealth business fast-tracked assets by £4bn to £5.8bn following the acquisition of Newton's private client business last September.

SLI, headed by chief executive Keith Skeoch for 15 years, maintained its leading position in individual segregated funds, ranked first by net flows and with a market share of 13%. It launched 20 new funds last year and expanded bank distribution.

Mr Nish said: "Our business has been shaped and positioned to benefit from evolving customer needs and regulatory changes.

"This, combined with our investment expertise and focus on providing value for our customers, is driving demand for our propositions across the retail, workplace, institutional and wholesale channels. We remain well positioned for the future and look forward to delivering growing returns for our shareholders."

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