A Standard Life policyholder failed in his bid to be elected to the company's board ahead of its planned demutualisation next year.

Former investment banker Michael Hogan was backed by nearly 67,000 members of Europe's largest mutual assurer after he called for the company to introduce greater transparency.

Another rebel candidate, policyholder David Stonebanks, stood for election to the six-man board but was endorsed by only about 23,400 members.

Both men would have required more than 200,000 votes to win a place on the board when the results were announced at Standard Life's annual meeting in Edinburgh.

Chief executive Sandy Crombie, who won re-election, told the meeting of 2,000 policyholders that the company had endured some difficulties since early last year.

But looking to the future, he said: "All that we have done has been to create value for the members.

"Ultimately, I hope we will be able to crystallise and allocate that value to members through the demutualisation process. It has been painful but it is designed to create value for our members."

He described demutualisation as the "superior option" available to the society.

"Standard Life has been carrying too much weight to be truly competitive in this world and we have had to take some of that weight out of the organisation to put it in a position where it can be truly competitive."

Mr Crombie said the company had to access more capital in order to improve its competitiveness and stressed the process would involve hard work and require the support of the members.

Group finance director John Hylands said the company was working towards putting the demutualisation proposal before its members at next year's AGM.

He said the plan would be studied by an independent expert and the Financial Services Authority before it is put to a members' vote.

The company would then have to get the move approved in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mr Hylands said the date of the flotation would depend on market conditions and the performance of the business.

He said the company had 2.5 million members living in 140 countries, all of whom will be briefed on the proposals.

Standard Life said total insurance sales for the three months to March dipped to £317 million on an annual premium equivalent basis from £329 million during the same period last year.

The fall stemmed from the the group's overseas divisions, with revenues at Standard Life Canada falling by £9 million on the year to £39 million while sales in Europe and Asia slipped by £2 million to £44 million.

UK sales, however, bucked the trend to up to £229 million from £227 million.

Policyholders heard that new UK business was expected to decline in 2005 as the society withdraws from less profitable segments of the market.