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Standard Life, the Edinburgh-based financial services group, has attempted to reassure its 6m customers by reiterating contingency plans to move its pensions, investments and other long-term savings held by UK customers south of the border in the event of Scotland voting for independence next week.
As opinion polls swing in the Yes camp’s favour, the company issued a statement on Wednesday confirming it had established regulated companies in England “to which we could transfer parts of our business if there was a need to do so”.
Stressing it would take “whatever action is required to protect our customers’ interests and maintain our competitiveness in the markets in which we operate”, the company said the move would ensure all transactions with customers outside Scotland continued to be in sterling, part of the UK tax regime and covered by UK regulators.
Asset managers, investors and pension savers are moving billions of pounds out of Scotland, according to industry executives, amid rising concerns about the financial consequences of a Yes vote in next week’s independence referendum.
David Nish, chief executive, said: “Standard Life has a long history in Scotland – a heritage of which we are very proud – and we hope this continues. But our responsibility is to protect the interests of our customers, our shareholders, our people and other stakeholders in our business. The plans we have put in place will help to ensure continuity and peace of mind for all our stakeholder groups.”
Around one-tenth of the group’s 3.7m UK customers are based in Scotland. At its interim results in February, it said it was being contacted by worried policy holders in England seeking assurances that their pensions would be paid in the event of independence.
On Wednesday, a company spokesman said: “This has not been driven by an increase in customer concerns. This is a proactive statement intended on clarifying our position and providing peace of mind to our customers, advisers, shareholders and other stakeholders regarding the arrangements we have put in place ahead of the Scottish referendum.”
Standard Life was the first significant Scottish company to enter the debate on independence in February, when it warned it might move large parts of its operations south of the border in the event of a Yes victory.
Based in Scotland since 1825, about 5,000 of the Edinburgh-based company’s 9,000 staff are in Scotland.
In August, Keith Skeoch, chief executive of Standard Life Investments, said: “We talk about [the referendum] all the time. Obviously, it is a big risk event. We are aiming to be politically neutral, as far as we can. I have people who work for me who are both Yes voters and No voters.
“As you might expect, it is important we put appropriate contingency plans in place.”