FOR ALL the landmarks Standard Life’s sale of its Canadian arm breached yesterday – ending 180 years of doing business in Canada, pushing its market cap past £10bn – the most significant was also its most enigmatic. David Nish’s bumper £1.75bn windfall for investors may have grabbed the attention but a subtle strategic shift was also at play that should make investors sit up and take notice. The sale means the group now gets just 10 per cent of income from spread-based business, compared with nearly a fifth before the sale. Most of Standard Life’s sales – about 90 per cent – now flow from UK fee-based sources, driven by its large fund management business. Cutting reliance on spreads is helpful – especially with new Solvency II regulations pushing up capital requirements – but the fund management business is notoriously crowded, with competition increasing and margins being squeezed. Nish’s gang now resembles a money management firm rather than a traditional insurer – it’s a gamble but investors will be happy with the cash for now.