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Progress for Stephen Bird’s Turnaround of Global Investment Company and Asset Manager abrdn

Companies / SME Jun 15, 2023 - 10:11 PM GMT

By: Sumeet_Manhas


It’s been two years since Stephen Bird’s successful rebrand of Standard Life Aberdeen into abrdn. The former banker became the asset manager’s CEO in autumn 2020. He launched the new abrdn branding in spring 2021, reshaping the global investment company into three growth vectors.

The corporate rebrand has been one aspect of Bird’s wider company transformation. So far, his long-term plan to future-proof abrdn has reaped positive rewards. The turnaround continues to progress at a steady rate.

Stephen Bird’s Initial abrdn Reshape and Rebrand

When Bird joined abrdn in 2020, the 2017 mega-merger that formed Standard Life Aberdeen hadn’t realised its full potential. Plus, the company had recently lost a contract to manage more than £100 billion of pension money for Lloyds Banking Group.

Bird conducted a thorough evaluation of Standard Life Aberdeen’s operational areas. He then restructured the executive team and adjusted the company’s long-term growth strategy. His strategic approach sought to address the decline in revenue and mitigate the outflow of funds.

To achieve this, Bird initiated a cost-cutting drive. He also identified the company’s “confused branding” as a weakness to reshape. His solution was to execute a total rebrand, transforming Standard Life Aberdeen into abrdn. The move consolidated five separate client-facing entities into one unified, dynamic identity.

With the rebrand, Bird also established a new company structure. abrdn now has three core vectors: Investments, Adviser, and Personal.

Stephen Bird’s Plans for Transformation Produce Early Results

In the first year of Bird’s turnaround strategy, abrdn made substantial strides. 2021 was a reset year for the company: Annual results revealed a revenue increase for the first time since the 2017 merger. Also, after a planned return of capital to investors helped rally the share price, abrdn rejoined the FTSE 100 Index in 2022.

The rebrand proved a success, too: abrdn is currently the second most recognised asset manager after BlackRock. In addition, abrdn is the leading asset manager in the UK, responsible for managing and administering around £500 billion of assets.

Bolt-On Acquisitions Generate Revenue for abrdn

Bird began exploring extra capabilities in 2020 as part of his strategic assessment. In 2021, abrdn bought Exo Investing, an artificial intelligence wealth manager. That same year, the company acquired Finimize, a financial insights app.

In 2022, abrdn then bought interactive investor (ii), the UK’s leading subscription-based direct investing platform. ii soon enhanced abrdn’s Personal vector, further empowering individuals on their financial journeys.

abrdn’s full-year results for 2022 revealed that ii grew revenue by 20%. The platform experienced notable benefits from higher interest rates on clients’ uninvested cash. Additionally, abrdn’s Adviser vector achieved a robust 4% growth in sales.

Stephen Bird’s abrdn Turnaround Gains Traction

Bird continues to cut and merge funds that are inefficient, subscale, or don’t align with abrdn’s strengths. After reviewing around 550 funds in August 2022, abrdn concluded that 20% of funds with approximately £7 billion assets under management fitted this description.

The company is now moving forward with a consolidation programme to merge or close more than 100 funds. abrdn will soon absorb three of its multi-manager funds into its MyFolio range.

On top of this consolidation programme, Bird is planning an additional £75 million of savings in 2023. There may be more dealmaking activities on the cards, too, either with abrdn acting as an acquirer or a seller.

More strategic transactions led by Bird could help abrdn strengthen its position in the industry and pursue opportunities for expansion and optimisation.

Bird has acknowledged investors’ frustration at the rate of change in the years since the merger in 2017. He has reassured investors that the company is moving “very, very quickly.” The turnaround is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s clear that the CEO’s plans for the asset manager are progressing.

About Stephen Bird, abrdn CEO

Stephen Bird is a skilled CEO with decades of experience in the financial sector. Not only has he achieved outstanding revenue growth in complex financial markets, but he has also developed a track record of delivering exceptional value to UK and international clients. He has guided a range of companies through business transformations, allowing them to become more competitive and grow.

Bird joined abrdn’s board in July 2020 as chief executive-designate. He became the company’s CEO in September 2020. Bird has represented abrdn as a director on the U.S. closed-end funds boards and the Société d’investissement à Capital Variable (SICAV) fund boards, where abrdn is the appointed investment manager.

Before joining abrdn, Bird spent 21 years with Citigroup. During this time, he gained extensive experience across various market regions. He served as the chief executive for Citigroup’s Asia Pacific business lines and the CEO of Citigroup’s global consumer banking division. In these roles, Bird oversaw all banking operations in 19 countries.

Bird is a member of Scotland’s Financial Services Growth and Development Board. He is also a member of the Investment Association’s board of directors.

Learn more about abrdn CEO Stephen Bird.

By Sumeet Manhas

© 2023 Copyright Sumeet Manhas - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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