Standard Life faces fresh conversion campaign

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The Independent Online

David Stonebanks, the retired lecturer battling to demutualise Standard Life, is on the brink of restarting his campaign to convert the mutual to a public company.

But at the same time, Iain Lumsden, chief executive of Standard, called Mr Stonebanks' actions "silly". Mr Lumsden said: "The idea of putting a resolution up on a website and leaving it there for months seems like a bit of a silly thing to do, given that it has virtually no chance of being successful."

Mr Stonebanks, however, has been able to gather support for his campaign. Using his website earlier this year, he collected the signatures of more than 1,200 policyholders calling for a meeting of the company. This was more than required by the company's rules, but Standard, which vigorously defends its mutual status, threw out the requests, saying they had not been worded correctly.

Undeterred, Mr Stonebanks has been re-drafting his resolution. He is now awaiting the final sign-off on the newly worded resolution from a barrister, who is helping him with his campaign free of charge. This is expected today and Mr Stonebanks will then post the new form on his website in the coming days. Visitors can download the form, sign it and post it to Mr Stonebanks.

On advice from the barrister, the new resolution will be without the earlier demands for a £750 windfall for every member, and then additional payments based on the size of their policies, were the company to demutualise. Under the new resolution, Standard would be able to set the level of windfalls and decide which policyholders received them.

Mr Stonebanks will also drop his request for £12,500 as an additional windfall for organising the campaign. He wants a demutualisation vote to coincide with the annual general meeting of the company in April, which would reduce costs.

Mr Lumsden has reiterated plans by Standard to make it more difficult for members to convene a meeting of their company. This has served to harden Mr Stonebanks's determination not to be knocked back this time.

"It's not about democracy with Standard," Mr Stonebanks said. "This may well be our last time to convene a members' meeting on demutualisation as getting 1,000 signatures is difficult enough."

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