Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) has revealed its new name to a mixed reaction, including some scathing comments on social media.
The Scottish financial services giant is rebranding to Abrdn plc, with the change expected to take place prior to the publication of the company’s half-year results in August.
And in a note offering some guidance for how to say its new vowel-light moniker, Edinburgh-headquartered SLA said it was pronounced “Aberdeen”.
It added: “The new Abrdn name… will be part of a modern, agile, digitally-enabled brand that will also be used for all the company’s client-facing businesses globally.”
The new corporate identity will be rolled out across all of SLA’s brands following the sale of the group’s insurance arm – and subsequently the Standard Life name – to Pheonix Group.
At the time of SLA’s annual results announcement in March, chief executive Stephen Bird was tight-lipped about the name change.
He promised the new branding would “capture the history and heritage” of the company. Asked specifically if it would continue to reflect the group’s north-east heritage, he said: “Watch this space.”
Unveiling the result to the London Stock Exchange, SLA said the name change marked the latest stage in a reshaping of the business and its “future-focused” growth strategy.
The company is now wholly focused on global asset management, technology platforms for UK financial advisers and their customers, and savings and wealth products and services in the domestic market.
SLA’s rebranding roll-out will start in the summer, alongside the implementation of a “full stakeholder engagement plan” to manage the transition.
Mr Bird said: “Our new brand Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels.
“It is a highly differentiated brand that will create unity across the business, replacing five different brand names that have each been operating independently.
“Our new name reflects the clarity of focus that the leadership team are bringing to the business as we seek to deliver sustainable growth.”
Martin Gilbert, co-founder and former chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, which completed a merger with Standard Life, creating SLA, in 2017, said: “I’m delighted the new name retains some of the heritage of the business and its Aberdeen roots, which are well known around the world.
“This is the right time to create a modern brand that is as resonant and relevant in the 21st Century as its predecessors were in the 20th.
“It makes sense to move to one consistent name, rather than have multiple different brand names.”
But other comments on the name change were rather less sympathetic, with Laith Khalaf, analyst at financial services firm AJ Bell, among those saying SLA had made a big mistake.
‘Dazed and confused’
Mr Khalaf said: “Standard Life Aberdeen needed to sort out its branding, but the new Abrdn name will likely leave investors feeling dazed and confused.
“Investors need simple fund names that are recognisable amongst 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 has 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 typo into a hastily written report.”
Is this the worse corporate name change in history? Standard Life Aberdeen to become Abrdn "pronounced 'Aberdeen'" as the press release explains…
— Jim Armitage (@ArmitageJim) April 26, 2021
As a financial services marketing guy, waking up to the news of Standard Life Aberdeen rebranding as Abrdn pic.twitter.com/WVVyVYDWIx
— Martin Bamford (@martinbamford) April 26, 2021
SLA’s brand has been in “disarray” since the merger in 2017, Mr Khalaf said, adding: “One gets the feeling no-one wanted to grasp the nettle of choosing between two brands with such heritage and pedigree.
“That seems to have been resolved by the recent sale of the Standard Life brand to Phoenix, clearing the decks for the new Abrdn branding.
“Fund performance is, of course, more important than branding, and Standard Life Aberdeen has some excellent funds, but you can’t help but feel they have just erected a barrier to investing that needn’t have been there.
“While the Abrdn brand might be specifically designed for the digital world, it looks far from ideal for the real one.
“A full stakeholder engagement plan is promised and don’t be surprised if stakeholders ask for ‘some vowels please, Carol’ (former Channel 4 Countdown game show host Carol Vorderman).”
Delighted to announce I've agreed a deal to buy Abrdn's unwanted letter Es for an undisclosed sum. This marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Tom Seelbeye.
— Tom Selby (@thomasselby) April 26, 2021
Will @AberdeenFC follow suit and become 'Abrdn (pronounced "Aberdeen")?
(Strong Consignia vibes about this name change….) https://t.co/n2FjqIIk7Y
— Peter Geoghegan (@PeterKGeoghegan) April 26, 2021