WHEN the news came it was not exactly a shock.

Doubts were regularly raised over the unorthodox joint chief executive strategy at Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) ever since it was announced in the wake of the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017. So when it was announced that Martin Gilbert was stepping down to become vice chairman – a full-time executive role on the same salary – to leave Keith Skeoch as the sole chief executive, there was no great surprise.

What is more interesting was Mr Gilbert’s admission that the decision was made to end the “noise” surrounding the dual leadership. While he said there was no pressure from shareholders to end the arrangement, he did concede that the issue had become a distraction which was overshadowing the advances being made by the business.

Some observers may question whether the change is linked to the firm’s investment performance. SLA reported a further rise in net outflows in 2018 amid a tumultuous period for global equities, and warned the prevailing macroeconomic and political uncertainties, including Brexit, are continuing to weigh on investors this year.

Both Mr Gilbert and Mr Skeoch, with justification, emphasised yesterday that the success the company is having in generating new sales from the diversification of its product base. They may well have calculated that bringing an end to the co-chief executive structure – and the questions which have persistently dogged it – may bring a different perspective to how their performance is viewed.