The life and pensions giant which owns Standard Life has parted company with its finance chief who played a key role in its recent acquisition strategy.

Phoenix Group saw its shares fall sharply yesterday after it announced to the stock market that Rakesh Thakrar will step down as group financial officer at a date to be agreed in 2024.

He will be replaced by a former senior figure at abrdn, the Edinburgh-based investment giant formed by the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management, on an interim basis, while a permanent successor is found.

Mr Thakrar, who joined Phoenix in 2001 and rose to become GCFO in 2020, was said by the company to have been central to the acquisitions which contributed to the group becoming the UK’s largest savings and retirement business.

His time at Phoenix has seen the company acquire the life and pension business of Edinburgh-based Standard Life in 2018 for £3.2 billion, at which point he was deputy chief financial officer. More recently, he oversaw the integration of ReAssure, the simplification of its strategic partnership with abrdn, and the acquisition of Sun Life Financial of Canada UK. He also oversaw the introduction of a new financial framework as Phoenix, which made its name as a consolidator of closed life and pensions books, positioned itself for growth.

Phoenix said it will begin a formal process that will see it consider both external and internal candidates to find a permanent successor to Mr Thakrar.

But in the meantime, Stephanie Bruce, a former chief financial officer of abrdn, will join the group on June 17 and be appointed interim GCFO, subject to regulatory approval. Ms Bruce, who left abrdn in May last year, was previously a non-executive director of Phoenix from June 1, 2022, until May 11, 2023. She was previously a partner at PwC were she led the accountancy giant’s financial services assurance practice and member of its assurance executive.

On re-joining Phoenix, Ms Bruce will report to chief executive Andy Briggs and attend all board meetings, but will not became a statutory director of the company. Phoenix noted that Ms Bruce would work with Mr Thakrar on an orderly handover before he steps down once her regulatory approval is confirmed.

Mr Briggs said: "Rakesh has been a great colleague and his counsel, knowledge and experience have been invaluable to Phoenix over the course of his tenure. We thank him for his significant contribution to the group's journey to become the UK's largest long-term savings and retirement business, which has included his oversight of a number of transformational projects. I am grateful to be working with him and Stephanie during the handover period and wish him every success for the future."

Mr Thakrar said: "I have enjoyed immensely my time with the company over the last 23 years and I thank all of the colleagues I have been fortunate enough to work with. The group is in a strong position today as it continues on its journey from being a closed-book life consolidator to a purpose-led retirement savings and income business. I look forward to overseeing the transition to Stephanie and I wish Nick, Andy, the board and all my colleagues at the Phoenix Group every success for the future."

Shares in Phoenix closed down 2.31%, or 12p, at 508.5p.