Standard Life finance director to quit

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The Scottish insurance giant, Standard Life, has begun the hunt for a finance director only 15 months after it appointed Marks & Spencer's former CFO, Alison Reed, to the post.

The revelation will be an embarrassment for the company's board, led by the chief executive Sandy Crombie, which is believed to now regret appointing Ms Reed, months after she was ousted from the then ailing retailer M&S.

It is thought Ms Reed's departure will be formally announced at the company's interim results next week, if not before. It is unclear whether she will stay on until a replacement is found. However, it is believed Mr Crombie is keen to find someone with a greater knowledge and understanding of the complex financial services industry.

Standard Life's former finance director, John Hylands, who was put in charge of overseeing the demutualisation after Ms Reed's arrival last year, is also expected to leave in the next few months. The chairman, Sir Brian Stewart, who chairs Scottish & Newcastle, plans to step down in 2007.

The board's reshuffle comes less than three months after its July flotation on the London market, which saw the company bring to an end more than 80 years as a mutual.

Although the demutualisation and IPO has been widely considered a success in the City, with the group's shares having risen more than 15 per cent since the listing, Mr Crombie is believed to be keen to put fresh talent on the board to take the business forward.

Once a new chairman is appointed, the search for a replacement for Mr Crombie, who has said he does not wish to stay in the post beyond his 60th birthday in two years, will begin. Although the group is expected to carry out a full external search, the UK chief executive, Trevor Matthews, and Standard Life Investments' chief executive, Keith Skeoch, are the two front-runners. Standard Life refused to comment.