Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Scots Give Dual-CEO Model a Reprisal, but Investors are Skeptical

Long-time friends Keith Skeoch and Martin Gilbert will have to overcome concerns that appointing two leaders will cause conflict and division.

They may have spent plenty of time fishing together, but whether that means Keith Skeoch and Martin Gilbert can jointly control a giant fund manager is a different question altogether.

The respective heads of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management this week set out their job-share plans in a bid to convince a skeptical market they’ll be able to successfully leverage their respective talents, without ever coming to blows.

Their decision to hold onto power following an £11 billion ($14 billion) merger of their companies has set them swimming against the tide. Last year, the likes of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Whole Foods Market and Swiss watch-maker Richemont all dumped their dual-CEO models after finding it confused their strategies. Deutsche Bank and BlackBerry are among other companies that have reneged on the model in recent years.

According to a statement released by Standard Life, the more camera-shy Skeoch will be responsible for running day-to-day operations such as investments, insurance, finance, human resources and compliance. Gilbert, meanwhile, would be more outwardly facing, taking charge of marketing, business development and international activities.


The pair would have joint accountability for the post-merger integration program and communicating the company’s strategy.

“Both boards have thought carefully about the key responsibilities and believe that the proposals play well to Keith’s and Martin’s respective leadership strengths,” Gerry Grimstone, chairman of the proposed combined group, said. “This blend of complementary skills and experience will serve the company well.”

Both men certainly have experience. Gilbert has been in charge of Aberdeen since 1983. Skeoch, meanwhile, became Standard Life CEO in 2015, having served in various senior positions since arriving as chief investment officer in 1999.

Neither man has ever had to split a senior executive role before. And, by jointly leading following a merger, there are fears they could personify the kind of cultural clashes that inevitably surface when two big companies combine.

The pair have, however, been friends for 30 years, despite having “very different’ personalities, Skeoch told investors on a conference call this month.

An analyst at Royal Bank of Canada said Standard Life’s latest announcement appeared to be “an attempt to assuage market concerns” about the leadership model. Others have put things more bluntly. “A company has to have one boss. Knowing each other and working together are two very different things,” Mark Dampier, head of investments at Hargreaves Landsdown, recently told Bloomberg.

Of course, there are still a few companies run by two heads. The biggest is Oracle, steered by Safra Catz and Mark Hurd since Larry Ellison stepped down in late 2014. With that company’s shares only recently heading toward a high point hit a few years ago, the effectiveness of the model there remains to be seen.

Shopping mall giant Westfield Group has been run by Peter and Stephen Lowy since 2011. That one’s a family affair—though if two brothers can keep it together for such a long time there may be hope for all.

You might also like:
Conscious Leadership: A People-First Mindset That Fuels Business Growth
GE Succession Plans in Focus as Immelt Retirement Rumors Swirl
U.S. Railway Company Bets Heavily on Superstar CEO
CEOs Should Lead the Charge for Business Transformation


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.