Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management have agreed terms over a potential £11bn deal.
A merger between the Edinburgh-based firm and its rival would create Britain’s biggest asset manager, overseeing about £660bn worth of assets globally.
Several hundred jobs are thought to be at risk in Scotland and London, however, with cuts of as much as £200m expected.
Keith Skeoch, chief executive of Standard Life, said: “We strongly believe that we can build on the strength of the existing Standard Life business by combining with Aberdeen to create one of the largest active investment managers in the world and deliver significant value for all of our stakeholders.”
Under the terms of the potential merger, Aberdeen shareholders would own 33.3% and Standard Life shareholders would own 66.7% of the combined group.
Standard Life chairman Sir Gerry Grimstone would become chairman of the combined entity, which would be headquartered in Scotland.
Mr Skeoch and Aberdeen boss Martin Gilbert would become co-chief executives of the new firm.
The companies said the deal was still subject to a number of conditions including shareholder approval, but recommended that investors vote the deal through.