Phipps in the frame for head of UK business vacancy at Standard Life

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The Independent Online

Robin Phipps, the former head of UK operations at Legal & General, is believed to be on an early shortlist of candidates drawn up to fill the vacant role of head of UK business at Standard Life.

Executive headhunter JCA Group is thought to have sounded Phipps out about a possible return to the insurance fold just one year after he quit his role at L&G to "play more golf".

A 25-year veteran of the insurer, Mr Phipps quit after missing out on the top job, which went to Tim Breedon, the then deputy chief executive of the group.

Mr Phipps, 57, has been identified as "the ideal candidate to fill the role at Standard Life" because he would not have to work out a long period of gardening leave before joining the Edinburgh-based insurer.

The role of head of UK business has been vacant since the departure of Trevor Matthews, the well-regarded Australian, who left earlier in the year to take up the position of chief executive at Friends Provident.

Standard Life chief executive Sandy Crombie is managing Matthews' previous duties until a replacement can be found.

A source close to the situation said: "If Phipps is not interested then I can't see anyone being in place until the end of the year at the earliest. Of course, Phipps ran a very different UK operation at L&G than the one he would inherit at Standard Life."

Kate Avery, group executive director of L&G's wealth management, is also thought to be an early contender for the job.

At Standard Life's annual general meeting last month, Gerry Grimstone, its chairman, said of the hunt for a UK chief executive: "You never know until you pin down who the person is going to be. But the process is firmly under way." Mr Grimstone said Mr Matthews' departure had had little impact on the performance of the UK business.

"He was part of our business [but] it would be a misnomer to suggest every policy was a Trevor Matthews policy," he said. "We're very happy with the business shape without him."

A spokesman for Standard Life declined to comment.

Shares in Standard Life slumped by more than 5 per cent on Friday following the publication of a highly critical note by Deutsche Bank. The group warned that the insurer was one of the most exposed life companies in a market where the outlook is "already weak".

Shares in Standard Life closed at 248.25p – more than 100p down on the price this time last year.