Firing lineJan 30 2019

‘Life companies have to evolve like asset managers’

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‘Life companies have to evolve like asset managers’

Standard Life Aberdeen has been through a transformation in the past few years, from a traditional life office to fundamentally an investment business. The company merged with Aberdeen Asset Management last year, meaning the platform business has become a fundamental part of the company as this is the way to access such investments for clients.

Mr Tiller says: “This job is exactly at the intersection of investment and technology, and that’s a hugely exciting place to be. We will see revolutionary change to savings and investments: the way people engage with long-term savings and investments is changing and will continue to change.

“The technological revolution is to do with client technology and it will mean things that were difficult and expensive to do will be much easier to do.”

For example, currently in development at Standard Life is the use of an algorithm that takes on board the funds a client already has and creates solutions that suit his or her requirements.

Mr Tiller explained when this could be useful: “If somebody has capital gains issues that could be managed, if there’s individual client preferences that need to be managed, or it could be managing across multiple portfolios for somebody who’s in retirement and living off their pension rather than living off their annuity.

“It’s democratising things which through technology we can make much more available to many people.

“The application of technology on investment will create more attractive solutions for customers in the future, and there’s a big change going on with customer decision-making: individual decision-making is rising and individuals are becoming responsible for their future.”

Mr Tiller has been with Standard Life since 1991 – having been in Standard Life Wealth and having helped set up Standard Life Investments.

The company was clearly a different creature when he joined, being largely a life office, but he has since seen it turn into an asset manager, after it sold its pension book to Phoenix Group last year, following the merger with Aberdeen. 

So, how does he see the future of the traditional life office? He says: “Traditional life products are further away from platforms, but there will always be a demand for businesses that are willing to underwrite risk on their balance sheets.

“Life companies have to evolve like asset managers.

“At one end, with-profits demand is still there, but not near the scale it used to be. With annuities we’ve got a more reasonable balance.

“With customers in research saying, ‘I want a guaranteed income through life’, but when you say the word ‘annuity’, they say ‘no’. For many people at some point it’s the right choice.