The life and times of Standard Life’s European investment

The asset management offshoot of one of the UK’s oldest and largest insurance companies has decided to target professional investors and clients, rather than the man on the street, as it seeks to grow its European footprint.

Standard Life Investments (SLI) launched as a separate company from its parent Standard Life in 1998. Once the in-house asset manager of the Edinburgh, Scotland-based insurer since the 19th century, it has continued to manage assets on behalf of its parent as well as third parties.

However, in the past three to four years there has been growing impetus behind its push into other European markets. Phil Barker, head of pan-European sales at SLI, says it has always been a well-known brand and business in the UK wholesale and institutional markets.

Five years or more back, it was really a UK-focused company with all that entailed: the typical spectrum of business saw UK equity and credit products sold to UK clients.

But the company has implemented changes in its processes, people and products, Barker says, which means it is now capable of pushing ahead on a pan-European basis.

A direct result is that in the past three years, there has been a ­concerted focus on speaking to people in the institutional, ­pensions, wealth management, advice and ­discretionary services markets.

SLI believes it can show the consistent process and robust performance over time that is required by this group of potential clients.

The story being taken to Europe is led by specific products, such as the Global Absolute Return ­Strategies (GARS) fund, one of the fastest growing funds in the UK retail market over the past couple of years.

The company is focused on the professional, not the end retail customer. “We are not starting to build brand-to-end ­clients through billboards in Munich,” he stresses.

SLI does, to an extent, benefit from broader Standard Life group brand visibility in markets such as Ireland and Germany through activities in life assurance, he adds.

The people factor

SLI drives its activity from ­Edinburgh, Standard Life’s ­traditional headquarters with some salespeople based in Frankfurt and Dublin.

“Because we are speaking to ­professionals, we don’t need lots of glitzy offices locally,” Barker says.

SLI’s fund managers also travel, but the company is obviously proud of its historic roots, and is keen for clients to visit Edinburgh.

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