The Standard Life Assurance Company ("Standard Life") was established in 1825 and the first Standard Life Assurance Company Act was passed by Parliament in 1832. Standard Life was reincorporated as a mutual assurance company in 1925.
The Standard Life originally operated only through branches or agencies of the mutual company in the United Kingdom and certain other countries.
Its Canadian branch was founded in 1833 and its Irish operations in 1834. This largely remained the structure of the group until 1996, when it opened a branch in Frankfurt, Germany with the aim of exporting its UK life assurance and pensions operating model to capitalise on the opportunities presented by EC Directive 92/96/EEC (the 'Third Life Directive') and offer a product range in that market with features which local providers were unable to offer.
In the 1990s, the group also sought to diversify its operations into areas which complemented its core life assurance and pensions business, with the intention of positioning itself as a broad range financial services provider.
The group set up Standard Life Bank, its UK mortgage and retail savings banking subsidiary, in 1998 and Standard Life Investments, which had previously been the in-house investment management unit of the group's life assurance and pensions business, was separated into a distinct legal entity in the same year, with the aim of establishing it as an independent investment management business providing services to both the group and third party retail and institutional clients. The group acquired Prime Health Limited (subsequently renamed Standard Life Healthcare) in the United Kingdom in 2000. Standard Life Healthcare expanded in March 2006 with the acquisition of the PMI business of FirstAssist. Barclays Bank PLC acquired Standard Life Bank on 1 January 2010.
A subsidiary of Discovery Holdings Ltd acquired Standard Life Healthcare on 1 August 2010.
The group's Hong Kong subsidiary, Standard Life Asia Limited ('SL Asia'), was incorporated in 1999 as a joint venture and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Life in 2002. The group's operations in Hong Kong were established to give the group a presence in the Far East from which it could expand into China. The group's joint ventures in India with Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited ('HDFC') were incorporated in 2000 (in relation to the life assurance and pensions joint venture) and 2003 (in relation to the investment management joint venture). The group's joint venture in China with Tianjin Economic Development Area General Company ('TEDA') became operational in 2003.
The group also incorporated Standard Life International Limited ('SLIL') in 2005 for the purposes of providing the group with an offshore vehicle, based in Ireland, through which it could sell tax-efficient investment products into the United Kingdom. Sales of these products commenced in 2006.
Following the group's strategic review in 2004, the group established a service company structure for the provision of central corporate services to the group's business units. Standard Life Employee Services Limited ('SLESL') supplies a wide range of central services to the rest of the group, including IT, facilities, legal and human resources services, and employs staff working in the group's UK and Irish operations (other than SLI, SLB and SLH, which employ their staff directly). This service company structure was created to enable Standard Life to comply with regulatory restrictions on the provision of non-insurance services and to exploit group-wide synergies.