Business is booming.

Abrdn recreates chief investment role to boost performance

Abrdn has poached a senior executive from one of the largest global pension investors for the newly created role of chief investment officer as the fund group attempts to revive its fortunes and devise a growth plan.

The Edinburgh-based group has hired Peter Branner from Dutch company APG Asset Management, which runs €521bn on behalf of millions of pensioners.

The position of chief investment officer, which disappeared at Abrdn following the departure of Rod Paris at the end of 2021, is aimed at defining the group’s strategy and refocusing the investments business on areas with the most growth potential.

Abrdn said Branner’s appointment comes as it attempts to simplify its product offering, increase efficiency and reduce costs, and improve investment performance.

The move follows a turbulent period for Abrdn and other mid-sized asset managers, after a difficult year in which both equity and bond markets suffered. Low-cost tracker funds also continue to squeeze active managers’ fees.

The asset manager, led by former banker Stephen Bird, endured a difficult time after it was briefly ejected from the FTSE 100 last year. It rejoined the blue-chip index in December.

The company suffered from £36bn of net outflows in the first half of last year, largely as a result of Lloyds Banking Group pulling a mandate, while the group posted a loss before tax of £320mn.

Bird, who joined in 2020, has attempted to cut costs and streamline the business, by merging or closing about 120 funds in its range.

But Bird is now seeking to grow the company and help steer it through another potentially volatile year for markets. Bird said Branner is a “top-class investor”.

The company was formed following the merger of Aberdeen and Standard Life in 2017, under former chief executives Martin Gilbert and Keith Skeoch.

Under Bird, the business was renamed Abrdn and acquired the investment platform Interactive Investor for £1.5bn from private equity group JC Flowers and other investors. The company also offers services for independent financial advisers, as well as funds spanning from equities to fixed income and private assets.

Some analysts believe Abrdn would unlock more value if the business was split up. David McCann, analyst at Numis, said: “We continue to think that a more radical strategy is needed to turn the group around and to maximise value, such as the break-up of the group with capital being returned to shareholders, or sale of the group in full.”

Before working at APG, Branner held the role of chief executive and chief investment officer at Swedish company SEB Investment Management. He also held senior investment positions at Fortis Investments and Ikano Fund Management.

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