Standard Life members demand vote

NOP poll shows nearly 90 per cent of with-profits policyholders want their say on demutualisation

Melanie Bien
Friday 16 August 2013 03:02

A large majority of Standard Life policyholders want a chance to vote on whether the life insurer should demutualise.

Almost 90 per cent of the 500 with-profits policyholders surveyed said they wanted the opportunity to vote on conversion, according to a poll conducted by NOP for the Standard Life Members Action Group (SLMAG). But SLMAG's methodology has been criticised by Standard Life, which in February rejected an earlier requisition calling for conversion. The issue will be raised at the life insurer's AGM, which takes place on Tuesday.

"We have had complaints from policyholders about the way [the survey] has been carried out," said a spokeswoman for Standard Life. "Policyholders were told that they could expect to receive free shares worth between £5,000 and £6,000 and then asked if they wanted demutualisation. But these figures are misleading and we don't recognise them."

She added: "We have said all along that if we get a valid requisition we will put it to the vote. The requisition we had in February wasn't valid."

More than 85 per cent of those surveyed said they were either for demutualisation or "undecided". Less than 10 per cent were against.

"These findings send a clear message to the Standard Life board," said Fred Woollard, the SLMAG's co-ordinator. "Members overwhelmingly want the opportunity to vote on demutualisation and given that chance our poll shows strong member support for conversion to PLC status."

Monaco-based Mr Woollard, a former fund manager for Australian millionaire Danny Hill, will lodge the revised requisition calling for demutualisation at Standard Life's Edinburgh headquarters on Tuesday, before the AGM. Standard Life then has 21 days to respond; if the requisition is valid it must hold a meeting allowing members to vote on the motion within three months.

"I trust the board of Standard Life will listen to the wishes of its members, who, after all, own the company, and allow them the opportunity to make an informed decision about the best way forward for Standard Life in the future," said Mr Woollard.

The new resolutions have been drafted after consultation with legal advisers, taking into account Standard Life's reasons for rejecting the earlier requisition. Standard Life remains committed to mutuality. Its advertising campaign featuring the talking baby hammers home the point that it is a mutual owned by its members.

SLMAG estimates that 2.3 million with-profits policyholders will each receive £6,300 if the life insurer converts, valuing Standard Life at £20bn. It also suggests that the company's 11,000 staff will receive between £16,000 and £20,000 each. A further 1 per cent - worth between £120m and £150m - is earmarked for the Standard Life Anniversary Appeal, a registered charity established to celebrate its 175th anniversary.

Standard Life, which has 5 million members and £70bn in assets under management, rushed through rules to deter carpetbaggers in February.

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