What was your first job within financial services?
I worked in an accounts department processing policy lapses and NTUs. It took me several weeks before I found out that NTU stood for “not taken up”. It was a different world, with a real status hierarchy, primitive use of technology and little customer focus. When I cast my mind back it is extraordinary how far we have come.
Describe your current role
I am responsible for Standard Life’s platform propositions. This covers all aspects of our platforms so ultimately I suppose it is down to me whether our adviser clients get what they want. The role is fantastically varied, from developing our strategy and business plans through to spending time with advisers – those using our platform or thinking of doing so. This is the best bit of the job – we are very lucky to be working with some fantastic advisers in the UK and I learn something every time I meet them. On a day-to-day basis, I go from chairing the committee responsible for the governance and management of the delivery of our platform developments through working with our proposition experts in specifying these developments to meeting the FCA, analysts and investors and the press. The bottom line is the job, it is about ensuring the platform meets the needs of our advisers both now and in the future.
What is the biggest challenge in your current role?
Undoubtedly it has been dealing with the enormous amount of change going through the world of financial services and platforms in particular. It is easy to merely react to change but the combination of the RDR, the rise of centralised investment propositions and policy over platforms and fund rebates has been much more fundamental and significant. We decided to take a progressive approach to regulation because of the opportunity it presents for top advisers and ourselves. We made a decisive move to clean fund share classes through bulk conversion, removed exposure to the rebate tax, fully unbundled our platform fees and renegotiated the terms we have with investment managers to deliver discounted fund deals.
What is the highlight of your career to date?
It was probably the launch of Standard Life Wealth. I was one of a very small team which drafted the business case and took it to the group board to seek funding. Getting their support was a fantastic feeling but came with a substantial dose of trepidation. At that point we had the business case and nothing else. However, in just over nine months we developed the proposition, recruited the team, sourced and configured systems and operational processes, built a risk management framework, found office space, created a brand, registered the company and held a launch party.
What is your career ambition?
I love a challenge of creation – building new successful propositions and businesses. I really want to keep doing this for the rest of my career, perhaps extending my sphere of influence but most importantly working at the forefront of where we are going next. One thing that is certain is there is no lack of competition in the market. Competition breeds innovation, change and opportunity – to me this is what it is all about.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
This is one of the finest industries there is and a huge strength of the UK. However, we can be too internally focused and regularly speak in tongues. Therefore my advice is to stay honest, speak to real customers and put yourself in their place. Ask yourself if you would buy the product or service in their position. Always respect your customers’ views.
David Tiller is head of adviser platform propositions at Standard Life