INSURER Standard Life yesterday reported a 15 per cent fall in sales for the first nine months of the year. <br /><br />The drop reflected weak financial markets and was broadly in line with forecasts.<br /><br />Britain’s fourth-biggest insurer by market value, revealed that life and pensions sales for the nine months to 30 September were £10.5bn – down from £12.4bn in the same period last year. Analysts had expected sales of £10.6bn, according to the average of 10 estimates compiled by the company. Its third quarter sales decline left UK life and pensions new business for the year down 23 per cent at £7.26bn. However, the overall figures were boosted by markets in Asia and Canada. <br /><br />There was also a strong performance in Standard Life’s assets. Total assets under administration increased by £15.3bn in the third quarter. <br /><br />Chief executive Sir Sandy Crombie – who is to be replaced by finance director David Nish – said: “Standard Life has continued to deliver a reliable underlying performance in the first nine months of the year, despite the challenging market conditions. I am particularly pleased with the growth of assets in the third quarter.”<br /><br />Edinburgh-based Standard Life emphasised that the sales decline reflected lower financial markets compared with last year. Earlier this week the insurer sold its banking assets to Barclays for £226m.