THE new owner of Edinburgh-based Standard Life has announced plans to invest in the life and pensions business and related brand, which it reckons can help power growth in a range of attractive markets.

Phoenix Group acquired the brand in May from Standard Life Aberdeen, which has decided to focus on investment management under the abrdn name.

The sale ended a near 200-year association with the brand on the part of the former Standard Life Aberdeen and its forebears. It came three years after the group sold its life and pensions business to Phoenix for £3.2 billion.

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Phoenix had focused on running closed pension books before buying Standard Life. This which has become the cornerstone of the group’s new open division.

Phoenix directors said yesterday that the purchase of the Standard Life brand was strategically important to the group as it pursues growth in a number of key markets. These include workplace pensions, bulk purchase annuities, lifetime mortgages and retail savings.

The head of the open business, Andy Curran, said: “Standard Life is one of the most recognised names in life and pensions and we have ambitious investment plans built on its great heritage.”

The group expects to be able to draw on its strong balance sheet and the expertise offered by Standard Life’s employees to capitalise on trends that will result in demand for pensions and other long term savings products increasing.

The UK has an ageing population and pensions reforms have left people with greater freedom to decide how they save for retirement. Millions of workers have joined company schemes since the automatic enrolment requirement was introduced by the UK Government in 2012.

Mr Curran noted: “The investment we are making in our propositions and digital channels will allow us to deliver broader retirement options and make Standard Life relevant to even more customers and advisers now and in the years to come.”

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By way of example, a spokesman noted that Standard Life recently launched a digital-led coach to help members of pension schemes to get a foot on the property ladder, which is called Homebuyer Hub.

As part of the growth push the group launched a range of retail Lifetime Mortgage products on Monday, in partnership with Key Group.

Phoenix is tweaking the Standard Life brand identity in support of the growth drive.

The group said: “A series of subtle changes in brand style are being introduced following extensive research with customers, with an initial brand refresh focusing on modernising the visual identity and tone of voice, and improving digital accessibility.”

The updated Standard Life logo notes that the business is part of Phoenix Group, which has headquarters in London and a big operations base in Birmingham.

HeraldScotland: Picture: Standard LifePicture: Standard Life

“In recognition of the brand’s profile and strength, the Phoenix Bulk Purchase Annuity (BPA) business, and equity release business, will align under the Standard Life brand,” added the group.

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The BPA business involves Phoenix buying defined benefit schemes operated by companies in the expectation that it could cover the liabilities concerned for less than it pays.

Phoenix said it will be investing up to £200 million a year to grow and develop the BPA business.

Standard Life has been recruiting in support of its growth push. The group currently employs around 2,800 people in Edinburgh.

Phoenix did not disclose how much it is investing in support of the growth of Standard Life.

Asked last month about the possibility of there being another referendum on Scottish independence within the next few years, Mr Curran said: “It would be premature to comment on what the implications may be at this stage.

“We are continuing to monitor developments closely and if it becomes clear that another referendum is to be held, we will assess the issues and implications for our customers, shareholders and employees, as we would with any other potential change in the political environment.”

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Standard Life Aberdeen was formed through the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management, which was agreed in 2017.

abrdn has a 14% stake in Phoenix and manages around £165bn funds on its behalf, under a deal that is due to run until 2031.