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'Name only matters so much': industry responds to Standard Life brand sale

'Name only matters so much': industry responds to Standard Life brand sale

Industry commentators have shrugged off the sale of the historic Standard Life brand, saying the name on the letterhead 'only matters so much'. 

Although the Standard Life brand has been around for decades, Mark Polson, principal of the lang cat, has said clients are more concerned about how the business operates rather than the name it has hanging above its offices.

Polson said: “Eventually the name on the letterhead only matters so much. 

“What is actually important to firms and their clients come down to two questions: is this a safe home for my clients’ money, and can it assist me in delivering my service and investment proposition to my clients? 

“If the answer to these two questions is yes, the brand stuff doesn’t really matter so much.”

His comments come after it was announced this morning (February 23) that Phoenix Group has acquired the Standard Life brand from Standard Life Aberdeen for an undisclosed sum.

Polson added that this was “clearly a big change for an historic brand” but pointed out it was not the first change that it had been through.

Meanwhile, Victor Sacks, director of advice firm VS Associates, questioned why Phoenix felt the need to purchase this particular brand as it already holds a number of brands within its group.

But Martin Bamford, head of client education at Informed Choice, said the acquisition made sense in “the context of the strategic partnership between Standard Life Aberdeen and Phoenix”.

Bamford said: “The Standard Life brand is well known and respected. From a marketing perspective, we should never underestimate the value of a powerful brand, especially in the financial services sector where trust is such a significant factor. 

“Standard Life Aberdeen will benefit from this brand sale in the long-term, as they continue to manage assets for Phoenix, and Phoenix will find it easier to acquire more assets with this strong brand behind them.”

Brand history

The Standard Life brand has been around for almost 200 years, with the Standard Life Assurance company tracing its origins back to The Life Insurance Company of Scotland established in 1825. 

Part of this business became Standard Life Assurance in 1832 and the company and its brand presence grew from there.

It also expanded from annuities and basic types of insurance into group pension schemes, savings and investments. 

By the 1990s it was Europe's biggest mutual company and more recently, in 2017, Standard Life merged with Aberdeen Asset Management to become Standard Life Aberdeen. 

Then in 2018, Standard Life Assurance Limited, formerly part of the Standard Life Aberdeen Group, became part of the Phoenix Group.

Going forward

Phoenix’s open business has operated under the Standard Life brand in the pension and savings market since this deal was made in 2018.

Phoenix is now looking to invest in the brand and has today hired Sangita Chawla as marketing director to drive this forward.