STANDARD Life Aberdeen chairman Sir Gerry Grimstone has said globalisation offers the best way for firms to protect themselves against the impact of Brexit as investors gave overwhelming backing to a deal that will significantly reduce its reliance on the UK.

Edinburgh-based Standard Life Aberdeen’s £3.2billion deal to sell its UK and European insurance business to Phoenix won the support of 99.26 per cent of votes cast at a general meeting yesterday.

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Proposals by Standard Life Aberdeen to return up to £1.75bn to shareholders following the deal won similarly strong backing.

Sir Gerry said the transaction represented a decisive move in the company’s transition from being a capital intensive insurance company into a global investment management firm with interests in insurers.

Standard Life joined forces with Aberdeen Asset Management last year though a £11bn merger.

Read more: Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management agree £11bn merger

Sir Gerry told journalists part of the rationale for the Aberdeen deal was that it would create growth opportunities overseas.

He noted: “Globalisation is the best hedge against Brexit. I would encourage all companies in Scotland and elsewhere to take the global path as part of their preparations for Brexit.”

Asked how he thought the Government was handling the Brexit negotiations, Sir Gerry said: “I don’t think they are really, managing them, at the moment.”

He added: “A year ago we talked about the importance of certainty sooner rather than later, we’re now nine months away from it (Brexit) and still have no further certainty.”

Standard Life Aberdeen has made preparations to ensure it will be ready for a hard Brexit if one happens.

Sir Gerry said the company decided to sell the insurance business to Phoenix because of factors such as the effect of years of low interest rates in the UK and the maturity of the business.

The sale will help Standard Life Aberdeen cut costs by an additional £100m annually.

Read more: Standard Life to pay £310m to offload its pensions arm to Phoenix

Standard Life Aberdeen will own around 20 per cent of Phoenix and manage assets for the firm. Sir Gerry expects these to grow with Phoenix set to acquire more businesses.

He predicted the deal would be good news for Edinburgh.

Some 3,200 Standard Life Aberdeen staff will transfer to Phoenix which will have operational headquarters in the city.

The staff who transfer will help Phoenix move into writing new business in areas like pensions rather than just running closed insurance operations which do not sell new policies. Phoenix will licence the Standard Life brand.

“In a sense this is the Standard Lifeing of Phoenix,” said Sir Gerry.

Read more: Zombie firm Phoenix commits to maintaining Standard Life workforce

Standard Life Aberdeen will have 2,500 staff in Edinburgh and operations around the world.

It has stakes in insurance businesses in India and China.

Sir Gerry said the appeal of the merger with Aberdeen Asset Management had not weakened amid the challenges posed by Lloyds Banking Group.

Lloyds decided to move £109bn funds managed by Aberdeen for its Scottish Widows business following the merger on competition grounds.

The decision is the subject of an arbitration process, which could last months.

Sir Gerry said the company only generates around £40m profits from the contract out of £1bn plus in total.

The company faced questions about its investment management performance at the meeting, after suffering funds outflows.

Joint chief executive Keith Skeoch said it must improve in some areas. But with fund managers operating amid unusual conditions, the company must “stick to its knitting”. The firm’s investment philosophy and processes should allow it to perform strongly over the longer term.

Sir Gerry said the support for the Phoenix deal indicated shareholders supported the company’s strategy.