Standard's long-term savings inflows rose by 11% to £2.8 billion, but analysts had expected £3.5bn, while investment inflows at £1.2bn were less than half the consensus forecast.
The Edinburgh-based giant's shares took a near-4% knock, with analysts pointing to the departure in July of investment supremo Euan Munro as one factor in outflows.
The poaching by rival Aviva of Mr Munro, architect of the GARS multi-asset strategy which has raked in a massive £30bn and fuelled the growth of Standard Life Investments and the group itself, coincided with a £1.6bn exodus from multi-asset funds in August, cutting the net inflow from the first half's £2.8bn to £1.1bn. Oliver Steel, analyst at Deutsche Bank said it looked as though net inflows had fallen to as low as £200m in August following Mr Munro's departure. But analysts accepted that inflows had already recovered, with Barrie Cornes at Panmure Gordon saying that fast-growing SLI was still "on track". The two firms have targets of 420p-425p for Standard's shares, which closed down 14.7p at 354.5p last night.
Mr Nish commented: "There will be an impact from Euan going, he is a great professional and we were sad to see him go but the team move on and the team's performance is good." But he added: "There was still £1.1billion going into the funds, that is not an outflow."
Mr Nish said the real benchmark of progress was the 15% rise in fee-related revenues for the year so far, following 14% at the half-year, and the building of revenue each year over the long-term "That is what we have done, assets are up £20bn in nine months, that gives us the capability to earn more revenue in future."
The third quarter figures were impacted by £500m of "lumpy" institutional pension outflows which can vary between quarters, as well as by a £300m cash fund movement in India. "Our corporate (pension) pipeline is actually very strong," Mr Nish said. On the government's consultation on a 0.75% cap on charges and its potential banning of commission for auto-enrolment pensions, he said: "We haven't charged commission on new sales for seven or eight years...the consultation seems to be emphasising the areas we have (already) moved on. We don't need to recover commission, it is the people who last year threw a lot of money at the market to buy business."
He said Standard's UK business was "capitalising on regulatory, market and demographic changes and our strategic positioning for these opportunities".
Keith Skeoch, SLI's chief executive, stressed that redemptions from its funds were "very low across the whole book of third party assets", the third lowest in the industry. He said: "The fact that we're still seeing net inflows into GARS, and redemption rates in GARS remain very low, I think is very encouraging, because it's the assets we're keeping as well as winning that drives the revenue yield."
SLI's net inflows slowed from £7.1bn in the first half to £1.2 bn in the third quarter, but included a 92% increase in non-UK sales to £4.3bn.
Mr Skeoch said GARS at £30bn was still less than a third of £94.2bn third party assets, which were around half of total assets under management. He said the gross flow numbers showed SLI was attracting "significant inflows into equities and fixed income".
Mr Cornes at Panmure said Standard had produced a "solid set of figures" and represented an "attractive defensive play" with a dividend yield of 4.3%.