KEITH Skeoch is stepping down as chief executive of Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA), the Scottish financial services heavyweight announced this morning.

Mr Skeoch joins Martin Gilbert in exiting the Edinburgh-based investment giant after the pair led the £11 billion merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017.

The duo, who initially led SLA as co-chief executives, went on to sell the SLA life assurance business to Phoenix Group for £3 billion in 2018. Mr Gilbert stepped down as co-chief executive in March of last year, leaving Mr Skeoch in sole charge, and went on to serve as vice-chairman before announcing he would not be seeking re-election at SLA’s annual meeting this year.

Mr Skeoch will be replaced by former Citigate executive Stephen Bird, who will join SLA as chief executive designate to begin the handover tomorrow.

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Mr Skeoch said: “It has been a real privilege to serve on the board for the last 14 years and in particular the last five as chief executive. I know Stephen well and will leave my current role knowing the company is in great hands. He will have my full support during transition, as he will have on an ongoing basis from the great team which has supported me."

SLA chairman Sir Douglas Flint said: “I want to recognise Keith's great leadership over the past five years as both our chief executive and for a period as co-chief executive. He guided the company through its transformation arising from the merger with Aberdeen Asset Management and the deal with Phoenix Group amidst significant change in our industry.  

“He has been a decisive and empathetic leader during the Covid-19 crisis and has supported the transition to new leadership selflessly, recognising that the post-Covid world brings a wide range of fresh longer-term opportunities and challenges that are best taken forward with leadership succession settled.”