Investors ‘dazed and confused’ by Standard Life Aberdeen rebrand

‘Paid too much attention to the twenty-something marketing kids as opposed to the grown ups who are likely to be investors’


Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) has changed its name to Abdrn in what has been described as one of the “most poorly conceived” rebranding exercises that will leave investors “dazed and confused”.

Abrdn – pronounced Aberdeen – will be part of a “modern, agile, digitally-enabled brand”, SLA said in a press release announcing the change on Monday.

SLA said the decision “marks the next stage in the reshaping of the business and future-focused growth strategy” after it announced the sale of the Standard Life brand to Phoenix Group in February in return for £34m “to settle legacy matters”.

SLA was established in 2017 through the £13bn merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management, but AJ Bell financial analyst Laith Khalaf said that the brand has been in “disarray” ever since.

Khalaf said: “One gets the feeling no-one wanted to grasp the nettle of choosing between two brands with such heritage and pedigree.”

Stephen Bird says change is ‘modern, dynamic and engaging’

SLA’s market value stands at £5.94bn, down from £13.3bn in October 2017 after investor withdrawals and net outflows of £58.4bn in 2019.

However, SLA chief executive Stephen Bird, who joined the company last year, described Abrdn as “highly-differentiated”, saying it will “create unity across the business, replacing five different brand names that have been operating independently”.

He added the new name is “modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels” and “reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business”.

SLA said it would focus on three areas to grow the business: global asset management (investments), technology platforms for UK financial advisers and their customers (adviser), and UK savings and wealth (personal).

‘Reeks of an attempt to become more relevant’

However, the new name and logo has received mixed reviews.

Bamford Media founder and CEO Martin Bamford said the decision is “among the most poorly conceived rebranding exercises I’ve seen in my life”.

He said: “It reeks of an attempt to become more relevant with a digitally-engaged audience. The buzzwords accompanying the rebrand, along with the monstrosity of a new logo, suggests an out-of-touch marketing team or agency.”

Bamford added: “I give this new brand identity a year maximum before another attempt at finding relevance.”

CWC Research managing director Clive Waller said it is “meaningless and an everlasting irritant to autocorrect on phones and iPads” and shows that “they have paid too much attention to the twenty-something marketing kids as opposed to the grown-ups who are likely to be investors.”

Khalaf said that the Abrdn name will leave investors “feeling dazed and confused”.

He said: “Investors need simple fund names that are recognisable among the thousands of investments out there, and having a brand name you can actually say, even if it’s only in your head, is a big help.”

“The fact Standard Life Aberdeen actually had to explain how to pronounce the new name won’t be lost on financial advisers up and down the country, whose clients might well think they’ve punched a type into a hastily written report.”

Created a needless barrier to investing

Khalaf noted that fund performance is more important than branding and Standard Life Aberdeen has some “excellent funds” but the company has “just erected a barrier to investing that needn’t have been there”.

Fundscape chief executive Bella Caridade-Ferreira said the use of Aberdeen “makes sense” for the company to retain its Scottish roots. She added the removal of vowels “feels a bit too trendy for an ex-life company, but maybe that’s why they’ve done it”.

Willis Owen head of personal investing Adrian Lowcock said that the new brand and logo “is a bold attempt to update the business for the modern age and become a more digitally-focused brand”.

But he warned it will take much more than a new brand and logo to be successful, “especially to the digitally savvy generation who don’t just look at a brand but how they communicate and interact with their audiences and customers”.

He said: “If successful, and the new brand does click and engage with a younger more digital audience then we could see more brands follow suit.”