The Background and Challenge
2017 was a year of significant change for Standard Life plc and Aberdeen Asset Management PLC when in August these complementary financial services businesses merged to become Standard Life Aberdeen, creating one of the world’s largest investment companies, the largest active asset manager in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.
In early 2018, the Group then further consolidated its investment management focus with the sale of its insurance arm to Phoenix Group, with the announcement being made simultaneously with the publication of the 2017 Annual Report.
In developing the 2017 Strategic Report our main challenge and focus was to reflect both the vision and purpose of this newly merged business - of striving to make a positive long-term impact by delivering world-class investment solutions and in so doing making a difference to the lives of its clients, customers, people and shareholders by helping them invest for a better future.
"The vision for Standard Life Aberdeen is built on becoming a diversified, world-class investment company and through the continuous improvement of our reporting we feel that the 2017 reporting suite pushes us ever closer to world-class stakeholder communications.”
Manager – Group Performance Reporting & Process Management
For this the first Standard Life Aberdeen strategic report we took the opportunity to rigorously evaluate structure, content and creative to truly showcase the new combined business and its investment story.
We sought to convey and illustrate the Standard Life Aberdeen vision and purpose in the report with a number of clear communications objectives, including an explanation of how the business is structured and positioned to deliver for wider stakeholders with a new stakeholder engagement page to clearly show how they are engaged and communicated with.
The following were also key areas of focus to meet the 2017 reporting challenge:
- A more explicit investment case which is ‘owned’ by the joint CEOs
- The inclusion of a market review to set up the Group’s business model and strategy
- Communication of the rationale for the merger and for the sale of the insurance arm
- Reinforcing Standard Life Aberdeen’s position as a leading investment company, along with the benefits of scale, diversification and their broadened capabilities
- A more integrated approach to sustainability reporting.
From the start of the process we looked to develop a report which was an evolution of both the previous Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management reports, for both design and content, whilst ensuring that the reporting suite evolved with the best elements of best practice reporting from across the FTSE100.
A detailed reporting opportunities and creative exploration was undertaken so that from the outset the creative elements and content were aligned to deliver a compelling stakeholder message. From a production perspective, we worked to utilise an innovative and bespoke MS Word templating process which really put Standard Life Aberdeen in control of the content without compromising on the quality of our creative approach.
The 2017 Standard Life Aberdeen reporting suite of the Strategic and Annual Reports showcases a great deal of innovation and succeeds in delivering an open and transparent approach to reporting communications that meets, and in many cases is a driver for, emerging best practice.
In a year where there were two significant market transactions and one of those announced simultaneously with the publication of the Annual Report, Strategic Report and group results, Standard Life Aberdeen’s stakeholder communications are on the way to matching their ‘world-class’ ambitions.