THE new owner of the Standard Life brand has hammered home its belief in the value of the name it bought from the Scottish financial services giant now known as abrdn.

Pensions heavyweight Phoenix Group acquired the brand in February from the former Standard Life Aberdeen, which decided to focus on investment management.

The deal ended a near 200-year association with the brand on the part of Standard Life Aberdeen and forebears. It reflected Standard Life Aberdeen directors’ belief that there were better growth prospects in investment management than in pensions, although the business has faced big challenges in its chosen sector.

The group has suffered big outflows of funds since it was created through the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017.

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It sold its pension business to Phoenix for £3.2bn in 2018, but retained ownership of the Standard Life brand.

Phoenix had focused on the consolidation of pension businesses that had stopped taking on new clients. However, the acquisition of Standard Life has left it in a strong position in the market for new pensions business.

Chief executive Andy Briggs said yesterday that ownership of the Standard Life brand would support the group’s “Open” growth strategy.

He noted: “It is a trusted and well known consumer brand that we are fully committed to investing in and will be a key driver of future growth.

“Integral to this investment will be an acceleration in our proposition innovation and the roll-out of enhanced technology for customers.”

Demand for pensions and related products is expected to increase as people are required to take increasing responsibility for saving for retirement.

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New products could help Phoenix tap into that demand. The company could use digital technology to boost its marketing efforts while squeezing efficiencies out of the business.

Mr Briggs said: “The investment we are making in our Open business is starting to yield tangible results.”

He also noted that Phoenix has generated around 90 per cent of the £1.2 billion of synergies it expected to achieve from the integration of the Standard Life business.

Some 2,800 people work in Standard Life operations in Edinburgh.

Around 2,700 Standard Life Aberdeen employees in the UK, on a full time equivalent basis, transferred to Phoenix when it bough the pensions business in 2018.

Phoenix has headquarters in London and a big operations centre in Birmingham.

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Under the brand deal agreed in February, Standard Life Aberdeen agreed to pay Phoenix £115m. It took control of Wrap businesses that provide services in areas such as self-invested personal pension plans (SIPPS). Phoenix extended the term of the agreement under which Standard Life Aberdeen manages around £147bn funds by two and a half years, to 2031.

Standard Life Aberdeen retained a 14% stake in Phoenix, which it described as strategic.

The group changed its name to abrdn with effect from July in support of a growth strategy developed by Stephen Bird, who joined as chief executive last year after spending two decades at Citigroup.

abrdn said on Tuesday that it had made a strong start to a three-year transformation plan after net outflows of funds under management fell to £5.6 billion in the six months to June 30 , compared with £24.8bn in the first half of last year.

The group suffered net outflows of more than £100bn in the period from 2017 to 2020, although the pace slowed markedly last year.

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Phoenix Group generated £872m cash from operations in the first half, against £433m last time.

Mr Briggs joined Phoenix last year after holding big jobs at other pensions firms such as Aviva and Scottish Widows.