Rebel Standard Life policyholder steps up battle for seat on board

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of Standard Life policyholders are expected to turn out for the insurer's annual meeting in Edinburgh today, as the former investment banker and rebel policyholder Michael Hogan vies for a place on the company's board.

Hundreds of Standard Life policyholders are expected to turn out for the insurer's annual meeting in Edinburgh today, as the former investment banker and rebel policyholder Michael Hogan vies for a place on the company's board.

Mr Hogan, 59, must secure the support of a majority of the 200,000 Standard policyholders who are expected to vote. If successful, he would ensure that one of the directors loses their place on the board.

Mr Hogan said he is standing to ensure that policyholders have a voice on the board, as the insurer moves towards demutualisation and a flotation next year. Although he has supported the re-election of Sandy Crombie, the chief executive, and Trevor Matthews, the head of Standard's UK business, he is opposing the election of the other four internal candidates, arguing that their contribution has been "negative".

He is also calling for greater transparency. "It's impossible to say what Standard's strategy is because they haven't revealed anything," he said. "I want transparency - there is no transparency at the moment."

David Stonebanks, another policyholder who was among the leading pro-demutualisation campaigners, is also standing for a place on the board. However, he is now urging policyholders not to vote for him - or Mr Hogan - arguing that the removal of any of the existing directors would be to the detriment of policyholders.

Mr Stonebanks originally put himself forward as a candidate to tryto scupper an attempt by another rebel policyholder, Paul Braithwaite, to get elected. However, Mr Braithwaite's application for candidacy failed, after he did not receive enough nominations.

"If any outsider gets elected, then one of the board's own candidates is a casualty, and that would be a disaster," Mr Stonebanks said. "Now that [Standard Life] is going ahead with demutualisation, I don't want anyone to get in the way of that. I'm not saying [the board] has done everything right, but what can we do about that now?"

The pay package of the chief executive is expected to be high on the list of topics discussed at the meeting. Although Mr Crombie elected to reject his £524,000 bonus for 2004, he has come under fire for accepting a £2.75m increase in his pension last year.

Sir Brian Stewart, the chairman, has defended the move, insisting that Mr Crombie is doing "a first-class job".

The odds remain stacked against the rebel policyholders succeeding in their attempt to get elected - no external candidate has been successful in more than a decade.

Ronnie Sloan, an independent actuary and long-time Standard policyholder, said the external candidates have not been helped by the voting system. Each policyholder has six votes, but if they decide to vote for only one or two of the external candidates, their remaining votes can be cast by the chairman - unless they request them not to be.

Standard Life declined to comment on the vote.

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