The Business On... David Cumming, Head of UK Equities, Standard Life


Why's he in the news?

Standard Life Investments has come out strongly against a Canadian-led takeover of Tomkins, the engineering group. And Mr Cumming has been less than complimentary about the way its chairman has rolled over.



Isn't that rather unusual?

Very much so. Fund managers rarely take a public stand against the chairmen of companies in which they invest. But here's Mr Cumming: "In contrast to comments from chairman David Newlands, we do not expect the majority of Tomkins shareholders to support a deal whose valuation of the company is, without a shadow of a doubt, too low, and also provides massive incentives to the outgoing management team to deliver returns to private equity rather than to current shareholders."



Wow, so he's no "absentee landlord" then?

Far from it. In fact, this isn't the first time Mr Cumming has had firm words to say about companies in which Standard invests. He even has a regular slot on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.



What's his background?

He had stints at Royal London and Manulife before developing his activist streak at Standard. The entertainment comes from his stint with Morgan Grenfell: Nicola Horlick blames him for telling her bosses she planned on leaving to join ABN Amro, provoking her famous flight to Frankfurt to plead with the German owners to keep her job.



And what's he like?

A heavy hitter and very much one of Standard Life's untouchables. Those who know him say when Mr Cumming, who is not yet 50, speaks, everyone listens. He's well liked but doesn't suffer fools gladly and, while he's become Britain's boardroom basher in chief, he's well rewarded and strongly motivated by money.



Aren't they all

Well, yes. It would be churlish to criticise Mr Cumming for that, given that he's proved admirably willing to speak out on behalf of his investors when other insurers, such as Aviva and especially Prudential, have not.

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