Standard Life's six-month search for a chief executive came to an end yesterday as the company said it would promote its finance director, David Nish, into the role.
Mr Nish, the favourite internal candidate, will replace the outgoing Sir Sandy Crombie, who is widely seen as having saved the group from disaster after taking control at a time when the Financial Serviecs Authority was concerned about its financial health.
While he is an internal candidate, the appointment of Mr Nish is still significant – hired from Scottish Power in 2006 after the company's stock market flotation, he is the first non-Standard Lifer to take the role in living memory. Previously the group had only appointed those who had been with it for decades.
Mr Nish beat off rival Keith Skeoch, who runs the key Standard Life Investments division, for the role, and one of his first tasks will be to ensure that he is able to forge a solid working relationship with the latter.
He will also be charged with developing strategy at the revitalised insurer, which some analysts believe could be eyeing acquisition targets. Mr Nish was one of the drivers of the possible bid for Resolution in a tussle with Pearl a couple of years ago, which Standard lost. That was probably a lucky escape for the company, evidenced by Pearl's struggles since the deal completed.
However, he is popular internally, and is seen as a good communicator with the media and the investment community as well as the company's customers.
Mr Nish said: "I am immensely proud of what our organisation has achieved over the past few years, and I am excited to be given the opportunity to lead Standard Life. We have built a strong, resilient and successful business. In these challenging markets, it is vital that we maintain the momentum we have built, and I am very much looking forward to taking over from Sir Sandy to lead the company to what I hope will be even greater future success."
Gerry Grimstone, the chairman, said: "David has a proven track record in our business, and has played a pivotal role in the delivery of our strategy since he joined the company."
The shares ticked up 2.1p at 232.1p, suggesting that the City views the appointment favourably.
Mr Nish will assume the role on 1 January and will recieve a base salary of £700,000, which could be more than doubled with bonus payments linked to performance.