Ousted M&S finance chief takes on flotation role at Standard Life

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The Independent Online

Standard Life, the mutual life insurer that is preparing to float next year, has lined up Alison Reed, who was recently ousted from Marks & Spencer, as its new finance director.

Standard Life, the mutual life insurer that is preparing to float next year, has lined up Alison Reed, who was recently ousted from Marks & Spencer, as its new finance director.

The decision to appoint Ms Reed, who spent most of her career at M&S before falling victim to a cull of the old guard, signals Standard Life's desire to beef up its consumer credentials as the insurance market adjusts to new rules on selling its products.

Sandy Crombie, the chief executive of the Edinburgh-based mutual, has been seeking a replacement for John Hylands for the past 12 months. His choice of Ms Reed, 47, emerged over the weekend after he was spotted chatting to her over dinner at London's Connaught Restaurant last week.

Standard Life declined to comment yesterday but is thought likely to confirm Ms Reed's appointment before its annual shareholder meeting later this month. It will want Ms Reed to start by June, to give her 12 months in her new role before the insurer seeks its stock market listing.

Ms Reed is one of the country's most senior female finance directors. She had a successful career at M&S, which she joined in 1984 from the accountant Touche Ross, becoming finance director under Luc Vandevelde's regime in 2001.

Although initially Ms Reed was due to leave M&S at the end of February, she agreed to stay on until the end of April because the retailer took longer than it had envisaged to find a replacement. Ms Reed, who will pocket some £650,000 in compensation when she leaves M&S, helped to oversee the creation of a thriving financial services business.

Her intimate knowledge of the retail sector will be seen as a huge advantage for Standard Life, which like its rivals is still coming to terms with depolarisation - deregulation of the insurance industry that has rewritten the rulebook on where financial products can be sold.

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