Chartered Insurance Institute director general Dr Sandy Scott spent 10 years as an army cardiologist, including time in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, yet he still rates his years in financial services as more exciting.
He is currently trying to implement more stringent exams for IFAs while fighting on a number of other fronts.
Next week, Scott will meet with John Tiner, Alan Pickering and Ron Sandler while chairing a conference for 600 financial services experts in Birmingham.
Although critical of many of their proposals, he is fascinated about what they have to say. He explains: “What we are trying to do is draw out of this an overall strategy on how we address the issues facing financial services. The good things that have been done – the Saltr initiative and so on – have been in specific areas. Now we need to listen to what they have to say to be able to take a wider view.”
Scott is working on a response paper to Sandler, cataloguing his concerns about some of the report's more controversial proposals. He says he does not accept the idea that simple long-term savings products can be sold without advice, for instance, and dismisses Sandler's preoccupation with IFA remuneration as an irrelevance.
“It is not about fees versus commission, it is about transparency and the current method is transparent enough.A fee-based model is not the answer and middle England will not accept it.”
But Scott agrees with Sandler on the issue of quality of advice, saying there is a clear need for specific investment qualifications. The CII has drafted a syllabus and textbook which he hopes will form the basis of a new qualification by April 2003.
The FSA is mulling over the proposals, which envisage the CII administering both the training and the exams. “We are saying, let's just get on and address this issue because it is about the credibility of the industry,” he says.
Scott is softy spoken much of the time but his voice hardens when discussing the Tiner project, which he is convinced will mark the introduction of the second-tier adviser.
He is wary of the idea, to say the least. “My question for Tiner is, what does an approved person look like? What do they have to do to demonstrate their competence to the regulator? I think it is uncertain whether they will be able to help close the savings gap but we will do whatever we can to support them.”
This team-based attitude to life is evident throughout much of what Scott says. He believes it was ingrained in him in the army, which he joined while still a medical and surgery student at Aberdeen University.
Although reluctant to give details, Scott spent time in Belize and Hong Kong, as well as the more serious business of the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland.
H e says of his time in Northern Ireland: “We had a little trouble there. I arrived right in the middle of the marching season. It was some experience, very different to what it is today. The thing I learned is that you will never get the best results unless you are a team but that team can shoot you in the back if you do not do your job correctly – that is very stark in places like Northern Ireland.”
Scott left the army after 10 years (having originally signed up for five years), reaching the rank of major. He worked briefly for the medicine's division department of health before joining PPP Healthcare as general manager for medical and procurement division in 1989.
IT distribution company Ingram Micro came eight years later before he joined Acxiom as chief executive. But ask whether his time in the medical profession was more exciting than financial services and Scott says absolutely not – if anything, he believes it is the other way round.
He is concerned about the threats to the industry, fearing in particular that Tiner's risk-based approach to capital will bump up PI costs even further.
He says: “Under Tiner, providers would have to allocate more capital to PI, say, a 200 or 300 per cent solvency margin, which will drive prices up. If you have to allocate so much capital to PI, you want to get a return for it.”
Scott says the CII is looking at other models that could be adopted instead but has no such concerns over the Pickering report, which he believes has found little favour with politicians – “too much joined-up thinking involved”.
Scott is no advocate of unnecessary complications, dismissing speculation that the CII and LIA will merge by saying that project-based partnerships “are more likely to produce results than sticking people in a smoke-filled room and forcing them to come to an agreement”.
You sense that he will get his way. He used to play golf on a regular basis but gave up after a particularly bad round at Gleneagles, simply giving his clubs to a worker at the check-in desk at Edinburgh Airport who said he was interested in playing.
Scott appears to take this perfectionist attitude into most things but wants a sense of perspective to prevail about the state of financial services. He says: “There does not appear to be a widespread understanding of what has been achieved already. From an outsider's viewpoint, you can see how much has been done but all you hear is pension misselling, crisis in the split-cap sector and so on. But more people in the UK have taken financial adviser qualifications than all other countries put together and then some. So let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.”
He will get the chance to tell Tiner, Sandler and Pickering just that at the conference next week.
Born: March 24, 1956, North-East Scotland
Education: Degree in medicine and surgery from Aberdeen University
Career to date: Royal Army Medical Corps, becoming a major, medicine's division of department of health, PPP Healthcare general manager, Ingram Micro managing director, Acxiom chief executive, CII director general.
Career ambition: “If there is one thing I could do to build the reputations of all professionals – no matter what they do – then I would be happy.”
Life ambition: “I have no ambition to fly to the moon, only to do a good job and enjoy myself.”
Likes: Swimming, scuba diving, hill walking, fishing, good wine
Dislikes: Scotch whisky. “It gives you awful hangovers.”
Peers say: “He is a very good strategic thinker and great at getting people up and working. A first-class businessman.”
Car: Three-litre Golf V6. “I like fast cars that are not too obvious because they don't get nicked.”