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Forget Boris Johnson's New Deal, Standard Life Aberdeen shares are worth buying with Citi's Stephen Bird taking over from Keith Skeoch


Only Boris could get away with the absurdity of declaring himself our new Roosevelt.

Rather than an economy-boosting Hoover Dam phenomenon, today’s supposed New Deal is a hotchpotch of re-announced old projects prettied up with a smudge of lipstick.

His £100 million for roads is barely enough for one bypass. HS2 appears to have been scaled back, and there is no new money on the table.

The fact is, as today’s GDP revisions eloquently foreshadow, we are heading for a major recession in the second half of this year - even if second wave covid flare-ups are only limited to Leicester.

Every business in the country is bracing for it, Standard Life Aberdeen included.

In the uncertainty to come, we are all going to be saving more and spending less, yet SLA still has creaking technology that doesn’t make that easy. Either for us consumers or independent financial advisers. For a company which needs to push heavily into the retail market, that’s not a great position to be in.

Most established fund managers are in the same boat, but SLA still hasn’t integrated the old Aberdeen and Standard Life systems, let alone integrated the various buckets making up its £86.5 billion of customers’ money.

This major integration is the next phase in what has been a bumpy and difficult merger process – a massive job for which veteran Skeoch understandably doesn’t have the stomach.

His replacement, Stephen Bird, did big digital changes at Citigroup, where he ran the vast consumer business.

While he failed in the race succeed chief executive Mike Corbat, the digitisation he pushed through there did seem to be working to improve what was one of the bank’s poorer performing divisions. His experiences with Citi in China, which is streets ahead of us in online financial services, spurred his thinking.

At a time when markets turmoil should mean stockpicking finally comes back into fashion over dumb tracker funds, there have been worse times to buy into SLA shares.