Standard Life today announced it will stop selling its individual life insurance and critical illness products effective January 1, 2012. The company will continue to service its in-force block of life insurance business.

“Standard Life will continue to include life insurance coverage in its group benefits offering,” the company said in a press release. “It will no longer sell individual universal life insurance, term insurance, whole life insurance and critical illness insurance.”

David Nish, CEO of Standard Life PLC, recently spoke to about his plans for the company since taking the helm in January 2010.

“I set out that I was going to take three years to effectively transform the business. [We’ve been] developing a greater understanding of what advisors and customers really need with regard to types of products and propositions,” he said.

“We are a core pension delivery company; it’s really at our heart,” he continued. “I’ve been looking a lot at how we operate, how we structure ourselves, and really trying to get the group working with much more energy looking forward.”

In today’s press release, the company said the move would allow it to sharpen its strategic focus on the long-term savings and investment market.

To that end, the company is introducing new savings and retirement income Ideal Term Funds which it says are secure and deliver predictable income. The new products are simplified, easy to understand and redeemable prior to maturity.

Standard Life is pitching these products as alternatives to banks’ guaranteed investment certificates and Canada Savings Bonds.

At the same time, it is adding socially responsible investment (SRI) funds to the range of investment options for any Standard Life group savings and retirement plan.

A recent survey conducted for Standard Life found that a third (32%) of Canadian investors said they are “very” or “somewhat” interested in SRIs, and 55% indicated that they would consider SRIs if the return was “as good or better” than other investments. Various Canadian and U.S. studies show that, contrary to popular belief, the performance of SRI funds has been similar to that of traditional indices in the last few years.

“This change will help us speed up the growth of the three business segments where we’re most competitive, and to respond to customer needs with products such as our new Ideal Term Funds and SRI funds,” said Joseph Iannicelli, president and chief executive officer, Standard Life Canada. “We are committed to continuing to deliver the same level of service to our current policyholders and advisors.”

In his earlier interview, Nish affirmed the company’s commitment to Canada, pointing out that the company has been here since 1833.

“It’s very important. If you look at it from a financial point of view, Canada represents probably about 25% of our group. It’s our biggest overseas business,” he said.

“If you look between the U.K. and Canada, the markets are very similar. We’ve got two mature markets that can share with each other. Certain things we’ve launched in the U.K. over the past 12 to 18 months were actually original concepts rolled out in Canada.”