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Jim Gilchrist is famous for his red Bentley. Two years ago, he got his hands on the "gentleman&#39s drive".

You have to wonder if he would have achieved this long-cherished dream if he had become the dentist he set out to be. But, after looking at a career filling cavities, Gilchrist decided to reject a six- year course and in 1963 he turned to financial services.

Unashamedly, he admits that money was the sole reason for this last-minute change of heart. The high commission earnings on offer were just too seductive and so his career began as a Scottish Widows clerk.

Gilchrist, head of sales at Scottish Life, is a confessed workaholic. But he appears modest about his impressive rise up the corporate ladder.

He says: "There was a lot of luck involved. It has also helped a lot that I have enjoyed my job so much.

"If you can just give that extra hour or so a day at work, then you will be able to beat the competition. You do not have to be smart but hard working to succeed ."

Gilchrist rapidly moved from Widows to become an inspector in Fife for Standard Life. Five years later, Scottish Life lured him away with the offer to double his salary to a princely £2,000 a year.

Last week, Gilchrist missed out on landing the top job at Scottish Life after general manager (administration) Brian Duffin was chosen to succeed the retiring Malcolm Murray as chief general manager from next January.

So what of the future? Could this be the moment when Gilchrist decides to pursue his political career more actively? He is considering throwing his hat into the ring to become an MP in a devolved Scottish parliament.

Gilchrist is no political novice. Despite the workaholic tendencies, he has been a Conservative councillor for Edinburgh City Council for 18 years.

He is a past chairman of the city council&#39s education and finance committees and an appointed Scottish member of the Manpower Services Commission, which studies training and education.

He had hoped to launch a political career as a Conservative MP at Westminster but says a lack of funds held him back from fulfilling that ambition.

Gilchrist says: "Politics has always fascinated me. Westminster is where things really happen and where the decision-making for the country takes place.

"People may say they are interested in becoming an MP because they want to improve society but I think the truth is that they are attracted by the power. I was no different.

"I might be interested in standing as a Conservative MP for one of the Edinburgh posts at the elections in May next year.

"There will be 129 MPs in the new Scottish Parliament but I imagine only a small percentage of them will initially be Tories, so it will be hard to win a seat."

Education is his big theme. He says: "The gulf between private and public education is widening. The comprehensive system has not been a total success. There is serious problem with motivation. This urgently needs addressing by restructuring finance and improving the status of teachers."

Like many businessmen, Gilchrist regrets not having spent more time with his three children when they were growing up.

Gilchrist now makes sure that he and his wife, a law advocate, the equivalent of an English barrister, share at least four holidays a year.

The couple look forward to their regular new year break in their favourite holiday destination of Barbados.

Gilchrist has always been ready to voice his opinions, pulling few punches. Take the future of the industry, for instance.

Like many, he predicts casualties if life offices fail to take tough decisions to slash their overheads and lower margins.

He says: "Companies are going to have to outsource more of their business if they are to survive.

"Many head offices are overstaffed. Some areas, such as legal work, accountancy, property management and publishing, could be dealt with more cost-efficiently if they were outsourced.

"The industry has remained unchanged for far too long. There has been a dog in a manger approach held by far too many life offices and this has allowed new competitors in, such as Virgin and Tesco.

"I am sure there will be further competition coming in from unexpected quarters in the future. But the industry as a whole can benefit if compan-ies are forced to become more consumer-oriented by the chan-ging market forces."


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