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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Simon English

The only person getting decent returns from abrdn is the boss

In almost any other industry on earth, news that you got an £800,000 bonus would surely be a sign of magnificent performance.

The fund management sector is different, to the delight of abrdn CEO Stephen Bird and his presumably equally delighted family.

The disemvowelled abrdn, a mish-mash of Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life back in 2017 looked like a mess then. The funny name hardly helped and looks like one of those marketing ideas that gets dropped once the marketing people get fired. Assuming they are still there, rather than begging for coins just of Oxford Street.

It was hard to tell back then which business was propping the other up. Both sides and their investors await enlightenment.

Funds under management dipped to £494.4 billion. Profits are down. Bird says there is “significant work ahead” as if he just rocked up yesterday.

 It is hard to see why anyone would buy those funds or indeed the shares.

(The rule on fund management firms is that if they are good you buy its stock and avoid the overpriced goods it is punting to the public. In this case it is hard to see that either is a bargain.)

The bonus to Bird does suggest that the allegations from last year that he mistreated staff have gone nowhere and so are probably untrue.

Still, the business still looks like it is going nowhere slowly.

As only analyst put it to me: “I agree with the analyst who said that abrdn faces a slow and gradual decline where the only way out is to break itself up or be taken over by a larger bank or asset management company..”

Sadly, that sounds about right.

A big expensive merger followed by a slow costly break up. The City learns nothing basically, ever.

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