Aberdeen’s Gilbert defends co-CEO role ahead of Standard Life merger

Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert has defended the co-chief executive arrangements planned following the company’s merger with Standard Life, arguing both jobs will be on the line if it doesn’t work out.

Gilbert argues his own strengths lie in distribution and strategy while Keith Skeoch’s skill set lies on asset management itself, CNBC reports.

“We get on very well,” Gilbert says of the Standard Life chief executive, who he mentions he has known for 30 years.

“Nothing would drag me to chairing an asset allocation committee at a fund manager.”

Gilbert argues he is “absolutely certain” the arrangement will work, adding: “And I suspect if it doesn’t we’ll both be going.”

“We’ve done this for positive reasons because it diversifies both of us. We were very much an emerging markets fund manager, Standard Life is very well known for its GARS and its very good pensions and savings business.”

The fund management business is going through a number of headwinds with the rise and rise of passives, more regulation, fee pressure, so being bigger definitely helps. The common wisdom in the sector is that you either want to be very big or small.

Criticism of another merger

Gilbert’s comments came as he criticised another merger, namely Santander’s takeover of struggling Spanish bank Banco Popular, which he compared to Lloyds takeover of HBOS in 2009.

Santander is to launch a rights issue to raise €7bn to support the buyout, but Gilbert argues it may have faced pressure from the ECB to save the Spanish lender from the brink of collapse,

The ECB had warned that a “significant deterioration of the liquidity situation” meant Banco Santander was likely to fail.

Gilbert says, without knowing the full facts, it looks like Santander has been lent on to save the bank.

“It smacks a bit of the Bank of Scotland (HBOS) / Lloyds where you never know how much pressure is put on the biggest bank in Spain by the central bank so I’d be surprised if they had agreed to it under duress but that will come out,” Gilbert says.