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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 12:48 GMT
Financial sector 'in good health'
Glasgow
Glasgow is trying to attract firms to its financial district
Fears over the health of Scotland's financial sector have been dismissed by a leading industry figure.

Scottish Financial Enterprise's Amanda Harvie said it would be "a big mistake" to think that the country's financial strength had been undermined.

There has been speculation over the future of 900 Abbey employees in recent days, while Standard Life has said it may seek a stock market listing.

But Ms Harvie said change was "part of the sector's success".

She told BBC Scotland it was "very fortunate" that companies such as Abbey and Standard Life were undertaking reviews.

"Company boards will do what they have to do to make sure that their business is strong, robust and able to compete effectively in what is a very strong international marketplace.

Scottish operations

"That is precisely what we want our companies in Scotland to do."

Abbey has confirmed that it is "reviewing a number of its businesses" - but refused to comment on speculation about the future of two parts of its Scottish operations.

The Herald newspaper claims to have seen evidence suggesting that plans to move its 28bn fund management operation out of Glasgow are well advanced.

The financial services sector in Scotland has seen phenomenal growth in recent years
Amanda Harvie
Scottish Financial Enterprise
The move would affect 170 jobs, and unions have warned that a further 730 are under threat in Edinburgh.

Union Amicus said that the bank was planning to close its Scottish Provident offices in the capital.

Standard Life, which is based in Edinburgh, said on Tuesday that it was looking at all options - including demutualising - as part of a strategic review.

It also announced that its chief executive Iain Lumsden was to step down and be replaced by the current chief executive of Standard Life Investments, Sandy Crombie.

The Abbey reports prompted Scottish National Party enterprise spokesman Jim Mather to warn that the financial sector was facing "dark times".

Financial strength

However, there was a more positive outlook from Scottish Financial Enterprise, a private organisation which supports and represents the interests of the country's financial services sector.

Ms Harvie said: "I'm not suggesting there's any room for complacency but it would be a big mistake to regard the announcements as some suggestion that somehow there's an undermining of our financial strength in Scotland.

"That most certainly isn't the case."

She said the reports had to be placed in context.

Abbey logo
"The financial services sector in Scotland has seen phenomenal growth in recent years," said Ms Harvie.

"We have seen a sector that is very strong and robust and has grown at five times the rate of the Scottish economy over the last five years and double that of the UK financial services sector as a whole.

"It employs some 100,000 plus directly and, in addition, one in 10 jobs relate to the sector.

"It is strong. Change is part of the sector's success and we will continue to see more change in the financial services sector in Scotland.

"That change has brought new jobs and new investment into Scotland and we want more of that."

Glasgow is currently endeavouring to attract big name firms to its new international financial services district, which has been dubbed the city's "square kilometre".


WATCH AND LISTEN
Amanda Harvie, Scottish Financial Enterprise
"We have seen a sector that is very strong and robust"



SEE ALSO:
Standard Life considers flotation
13 Jan 04  |  Business
HBOS boss apologises to customers
13 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Union claims Abbey jobs at risk
12 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Glasgow launches 'square kilometre'
19 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Abbey axes National habit
24 Sep 03  |  Business


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