(Bloomberg) -- Stephen Bird, the chief executive of troubled asset manager Abrdn Plc, has stepped down after failing to reverse the fortunes of one of the UK’s largest asset managers.

The board and Bird have “together agreed” that the time has come for Bird to hand over the reins, the firm said in a statement Friday. Chief Financial Officer Jason Windsor will become the interim CEO and the firm will start a formal search process that will also consider external candidates. 

The news marks the end of a tumultuous three and a half years for the former Citi executive, who joined Abrdn in September 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. His tenure — marked with controversy from the outset when soon after joining he slashed staff bonuses across the firm — included several rounds of job cuts and cost reductions, a crashing stock price and a much-ridiculed rebrand that saw all the vowels removed from the firm’s name.


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When he took over, Bird, 57, set a three-year plan to “reset” Abrdn and turn it into a diversified investment firm that wouldn’t rely as heavily on mutual funds. He divided the business into three parts: an asset management business, a wealth arm and a platform for advisors, and took steps to streamline the funds unit by shutting down some mandates and focusing on fewer areas. He also paid £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) to buy retail broker platform Interactive Investor.

But these efforts fell short of steadying the troubled firm and winning over clients and shareholders. Since it was created via the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen in 2017, Abrdn has recorded six straight years of outflows, a trend that continued under Bird. 

During his tenure, clients pulled tens of billions from the firm’s funds and the stock price has fallen by about 30%. Assets under management and administration dropped to £507.7 billion at the end of March from about £530 billion when Bird joined.  

Following the announcement, Abrdn’s shares rose as much as 2.1% and were down 0.9% at 11:15 a.m.

The downward trajectory of assets and stock price also took its toll on staff. Several senior employees — including investment management co-CEO Chris Demetriou and real estate head Neil Slater — departed. Scores of other managers and more junior employees have taken voluntary redundancies, while others were included in the layoffs.

Bird presided over Abrdn at a time when the industry is grappling with redemptions and margin pressure. After years of trying to reverse a client shift to cheaper passive products, active money managers across the globe have resorted to mergers and cost-cutting rounds as they try to keep clients from the exits and save their squeezed margins.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:

Stephen Bird’s resignation as Abrdn CEO after four years of share-price underperformance and declining earnings offers his successor the possibility and challenge of a turnaround. A search is underway with CFO Jason Windsor as interim head. Abrdn’s 63.3% EPS collapse in the period came despite just a 7.4% decline in assets under management.

— Kevin Ryan, BI insurance analyst

(Updates share price in the seventh paragraph)

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