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Money Management

Ditching the co-CEO title, Martin Gilbert sees ‘noise’ receding around Aberdeen Standard

Martin Gilbert, who gave up his co-CEO role at the firm in March to become chairman, said a lot of work still needs to be done.

Standard Life Aberdeen PLC has dissolved its co-CEO structure, a move that Martin Gilbert says will help remove some of the "noise" that surrounded the leadership structure.

When the merger of Standard Life PLC and Aberdeen Asset Management PLC was announced in March 2017, the soon-to-be combined company had Mr. Gilbert and Keith Skeoch installed as co-CEOs.

"There was too much noise. Not from shareholders or clients but too much external noise," Mr. Gilbert said in an April 17 interview with Pensions & Investments. "It definitely (was) detrimental internally and externally and I think it was a big point," he added.

Two years later, Mr. Gilbert has stepped away from that role, moving to chairman of the company's money management arm, Aberdeen Standard Investments, a move that he says will allow him to focus on international client development. He also became vice chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen.

"To a certain extent, (the noise) is solved," Mr. Gilbert said.

"It's great for me. I can concentrate on what I'm good at ... Without clients you don't have a business," he said.

Mr. Gilbert said he suggested in September 2018 to Douglas Flint, then-incoming chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen, that he was ready to step away from being co-CEO.

"I took the view that was I very happy to step away (from) running the day-to -day of the firm and leave it to Keith (Skeoch), who was far more able than me at the day-to-day grind of running a regulated entity," Mr. Gilbert said.

"It's been well-received and it's been seamless," he recollected.

One analyst said he wasn't surprised by the move.

"Aberdeen Standard Investments doesn't now need two people (as CEOs) and this was always likely to be an interim measure," said David Holder, senior analyst, manager research at Morningstar Inc. in London.

"This move signals the start of the next phase in the integration with (Mr.) Skeoch managing investment operations and (Mr.) Gilbert acting as a global ambassador for the combined business," Mr. Holder said.

He added that he was encouraged by "what's been happening with some (ASI) teams," providing evidence that operationally, within some teams in that they have been sharing best practices to utilize the best of both previous investment approaches to deliver better client outcomes."