James Moore: Standard Life’s conservative view wins friends south of the border

 

Outlook “In making our comments, we were not seeking to make a political comment.” If he can make more disingenuous statements like that with a straight face, then a political career may be ahead for David Nish, the chief executive of Standard Life.

You might have missed the fact that the life insurer actually came out with a rather good set of interims, because the company made sure the focus wouldn’t be on them.

A reiteration of its warning about Scottish independence was close to the top of emails ostensibly containing the results’ highlights sent to journalists yesterday.

So was the fact that Standard felt that it hadn’t received answers to questions about an independent Scotland’s currency, EU membership and the way it will handle financial regulation.

At a time when most big companies are doing everything they can to avoid getting entangled in the debate, Mr Nish and Standard Life jumped right into the middle of it. Which seems to have been their intention, despite what they’d have you believe.

Of course, Standard has long been a bastion of old-style Edinburgh Unionism, and conservatism (only sometimes with a small c). Its late chief executive, Scott Bell, was a vocal opponent of devolution and communicated that very clearly to his staff, and to anyone else who cared to listen.

But his successor, and the company, are playing a subtler game here than simply trying to persuade fellow Scots to vote “No”, by threatening to shift jobs south if they say “Yes”. 

For starters, the company needs to reassure its customers and shareholders during a period of uncertainty. If it loses too many toss-ups for mandates to English-based rivals, such as Legal & General or Prudential, then future results won’t look too good.

But that should have been covered when Standard first said it was making contingency plans to move businesses south in the event of a “Yes” vote several months ago.

Yesterday’s statements, coming so close to the vote, may actually have been aimed at a rather different audience.

However Standard’s words are perceived North of the border, they will go down very well in the South, and especially in Westminster. By banging the Unionist drum it will have won friends, and be owed favours, enhancing its prestige and clout in the process. That’s something the company’s canny – and well-connected – chairman, Gerry Grimstone, will have been well aware of. The after-hours chatter holds that certain life insurance bosses, notably the Pru’s Tidjane Thiam and Nigel Wilson at Legal & General, were called by the Chancellor, George Osborne, before he made the surprise decision to scrap the requirement for people to buy an annuity with their pension savings. If Mr Nish wasn’t on the “to call” list, he will be in the future.

Yesterday’s noise was therefore part of a clever play by Standard Life. A deliberate, and a very political one.

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game