Insurer Standard Life missed sales growth expectations on Wednesday, blaming the shortfall on corporate pension fund decisions to stay with existing providers rather than switch during this year's financial market turmoil.

Sales grew a smaller-than-expected 10 percent rise in the nine-months to September 30 for Standard Life, Britain's fifth-biggest insurer. It reported new business sales of 15.5 billion pounds, undershooting the 15.8 billion expected by analysts in a company poll.

Pension scheme trustees when they see a lot of volatility tend not to move schemes, Standard Life finance director Jackie Hunt told reporters on a conference call.

They don't want to be out of the market even for a couple of hours.

Standard Life had corporate pensions sales of 6.175 billion pounds over the first nine months, missing the 6.435 billion pencilled in by analysts.

The Eurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of leading European shares has fallen 13.3 percent over the same period, with the flagship FTSE 100 down 7 percent.

Business on the institutional side can be lumpy from quarter to quarter and market volatility is particularly unhelpful, Oriel Securities analyst Marcus Barnard wrote in a note.

Standard Life shares were 1.4 percent higher at 208.75 pence by 9:05 a.m., narrowly underperforming a 1.74 percent rise in the European insurance share index <.SXIP>.

The stock is down 3 percent in the year to date, against a 14 percent decline for the sector as a whole.

Standard Life is investing heavily in new technology and products it hopes will give it an advantage when a ban on paying commissions to retail insurance brokers comes into force next year.

Hunt reiterated that the 175-year old insurer expects investment spending to drop to about 180 million pounds next year from 200 million in 2011 and 2010.

She also confirmed that with just 50 million pounds invested in peripheral eurozone government and bank debt, Standard Life is not exposed to the European sovereign debt crisis in any significant way.

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Andrew Callus)