Scottish independence: Standard Life considers moving to England

Scottish flagStandard Life, a definitively Scottish insurance company with a large asset management business, may move parts of its operations to England, should Scotland vote to become an independent country in September. Gerry Grimstone, chairman of the Edinburgh-based insurer, says a number of material issues remain uncertain even after a careful and thorough review. It remains uncertain what currency Scotland would use, what shape and role its monetary system would take, whether it would be part of the European Union, how financial services and customer protection will be regulated, and how savings and pensions and other investments would be taxed. Although Grimstone says that Standard Life is “strictly apolitical” and does not give advice on how people should vote, he emphasises that it would take action if considered necessary. Grimstone says this could include transferring parts of its operations from Scotland to England to ensure continuity and protect the interests of stakeholders. Standard Life Investments, the insurer’s asset manager, has £178.8 billion (€217.2 billion) of assets under management. Standard Life, the parent that has been based in Scotland for 189 years, says the group has £97.4 billion of third-party assets under management and 53% came from outside the UK last year. The group reported a 13% fall in operating profits to £751 million, which Grimstone says is the result of a strong prior year. Standard Life has continued to expand in Boston and Hong Kong, and identified opportunities for further global growth with strategic partners, like Sumitomo Mitsui in Japan and John Hancock in the US. “Scotland has been a good place from which to run our business and compete around the world,” Grimstone says. “We very much hope that this can continue.” Grimstone says he is seeking further clarity from politicians on both sides of the debate. Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford, which was established 100 years ago and has £101 billion of assets under management, says in a statement that it has set up a working group that is "considering the Referendum on Scottish Independence and the issues raised by it". “We have engaged with both sides of the campaign, as well as with the Scottish and UK governments,” it says. “Our main priorities at the moment in respect of the Referendum are to monitor developments; to assess any impacts on our clients or the firm; and to consider any steps that might ultimately need to be taken to ensure the protection of our clients’ interests and allow a ‘business as usual’ outcome.” The referendum on Scottish independence on September 18 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for people in Scotland to have their say about the country’s future. ©2014 funds europe

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