May 9, 2021

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Abrdn CEO, Stephen Beard, responds to the name change

Abrdn CEO, Stephen Bird’s response: The name change is the beginning of a major change for fund giant FTSE100

He’s been hit for changing the fund giant Standard Life Aberdeen’s FTSE100 name to Abrdn.

But last night, CEO Stephen Bird responded, telling The Mail on Sunday that traditional fund management is “in decline” – and revealing that the rebranding is part of a major shift in strategy.

The fund group, which manages 535 billion pounds, was mocked last week when it unveiled Abrdn.

Critics joked that the name, pronounced “Aberdeen,” reads like “burden” and appears to be misspelled.

Rebrand: A controversial new look for CEO Stephen Beard, created by consultants Wolf Olins

But Bird said the rebranding, pioneered by consultants Wolf Olins, reflects his attempt to modernize the company and transform it away from selling investment funds primarily to retail wealth management and digital services for financial advisors.

He said, “The old traditional asset management industry is in decline. There are a lot of people who are living on a fee basis only by relying on assets. This is not the future, there has to be a change that benefits customers. Value, performance and better service.”

Bird said they expected some criticism, explaining, “ Our board has already prepared us by running a bunch of brand case studies, and each one was identified with almost no exception on the first day. I remember the headlines “Aviva Kills Norwich Union” and the striking headline it made. So we were prepared for that. It is about more than the brand, it is what we offer our customers.

Abrdn does an overhaul of its Wrap and Elevate sites, which half of UK financial advisors use to manage their clients’ money.

Byrd said the work should be completed by summer, adding: “We have a brand new release coming in August that will be totally transformational.

Today, IFAs [independent financial advisers] Need to call our call centers a lot, do paperwork and check clients – the new system is digitizing it all.

The Asset Manager was formed after rivals Aberdeen and 196-year-old Standard Life sealed a £ 11 billion merger in 2017. The group sold the name Standard Life to insurance giant Phoenix in February. But like other asset managers, it has suffered from outflows as investors turn to cheap automated funds. Investors pulled out £ 3.1 billion from Abrdn last year.

After selling the name Standard Life, the company was left with the trademark Aberdeen – but is owned by another company. Bird said it would be crazy to give up the name Aberdeen. “So this Abrdn idea, digitally protected, is the most reasonable way to do it.”