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Scott Dolfi

Born: New York state

Age: 39

Lives: Notting Hill with his wife and three children

Education: BS Engineering and Management, Clarkson University, New York. MS Industrial and Management Engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Career: 1985-89 TRW Inc project manager on management associates programme. 1989-1997 GE Commercial Real Estate Financing & Services asset manager then managing director of quality. 1997-99 GE Financial Assurance, senior vice-president, partnership marketing. 1999-2001 GE Insurance Holdings chief operating officer. 2001-present, chief executive GE Life

Life ambition: “To look across everything I&#39ve done and feel I&#39ve made a difference.”

Career ambition: “To get to the end of my career when there is nothing better anyone can offer me.”

Likes: Snowboarding, martial arts, travelling, being with his family

Dislikes: People who get caught up in their own success and let their ego take over.

Car: BMW 3 Series

Peers say: “Scott&#39s calm exterior disguises a passionate commitment to getting things done. He delivers consistently and knows good standards and service will make IFAs happy.”

Try to find out about General Electric on its website and by the time you get to GE Life, you may well have unintentionally bought yourself an aircraft engine and a job lot of industrial plastic pipes.

GE is a huge company with a market capitalisation of £370bn, covering a huge spectrum of industries. With the new GE Life, GE is determined to stamp its authority on UK financial services.

Having bought National Mutual last year, this week, GE Life is launching as a specialist retirement planning player. New chief executive Scott Dolfi is planning to use his GE management doctrines to turn the enlarged company into a “leaner, faster and more customer-focused” organisation.

US-born Dolfi is a back-office man. He has been running operations for GE Insurance Holdings, part of GE Finance, which trades in the UK and beyond, since 1999.

This is his first front-of-house gig so it is not surprising that he seems a little nervous to meet a Money Marketing pensions reporter. Perhaps he thought we were out to pick holes in his knowledge of pensions. It would not take long – Dolfi has none. But he is not going to let that stop him turning GE Life into a heavyweight life and pension player.

With National Mutual&#39s pension expertise and a management team with years of experience in the IFA market, Dolfi is turning GE Life from a niche player in the over-50s market into a specialist retirement planning provider.

He will use GE&#39s financial clout to bump up NatMut&#39s existing Sipp, SSAS and drawdown presence alongside GE Life&#39s equity release, annuity and guaranteed equity bond products.

Unlike most of his UK contemporaries, Dolfi does not have tales of summers flogging insurance door-to-door or of wild days of actuarial training. Neither does he wax lyrical about the importance of with-profits as a safe and reliable investment vehicle or the effect of mortality drag on annuity rates.

He says: “Most people in the UK pension industry have been in it from the very start of their career. This is my first week in pensions. But that is typical across divisions of GE. Most people in senior management roles have come from different areas. It gives you a bit of distance to look at the business objectively and bring in new ideas.”

Dolfi trained as an engineer in New York State and started out as a management trainee in an American manufacturing conglomerate firm TRW. Finding the pace of manufacturing too slow, he joined GE&#39s real estate business in 1989 and from there moved in to its financial services arm.

Having had the call (picture the big red telephone on desk which only rings when the big boss wants to talk to you), Dolfi, his wife and three children swapped the countryside of Philadelphia for central London three years ago, when he became chief operating officer for GE Insurance Holdings.

Dolfi will leave pensions to the experts and will focus on establishing a winning process to grow the business.

That is the way GE does things, he says. It has built its success on a slick operational process. With such a diverse range of businesses under its umbrella, each division has a free rein on its strategy. But the whole company works using the same processes and systems and talks in the same business language.

He says: “My whole career has been about business systems, consolidating operating platforms, improving turn-round times and improving quality and growing businesses. GE has very good operating systems and has strong values.”

Dolfi speaks often about “vision”, “growth”, “performance” and “personal development”. The American twang may lead you to expect a clash with a 100-year-old English mutual organisation. But Dolfi says he has been pleasantly surprised by the similarity of approach he found there.

He is certainly not an ivory-tower-dwelling CEO. A series of meetings with every employee in GE Life is already in the diary, so he can get to know his new team.

Due to its specialist advice-driven product base, IFAs are the lynchpin of his business model. One of Dolfi&#39s first plans is to set up a council of IFAs with whom GE will meet regularly to keep in touch with advisers&#39 needs.

He says: “We find out what they think of what we are doing and what issues we should be taking on board. The senior management team will also be assigned IFAs they can contact at any time. There is no way we cannot be customer-focused. Everyone from the top down will hear what the customer is saying.

“We will always be expanding our product capability. The old GE Life was not a big player. My goal is that some of the big players should now be looking over their shoulders.”

GE Life is making its HQ in the suburbs of Hitchin but Dolfi is firmly settled in trendy West London&#39s Notting Hill. Not the kind of area you would expect to find the head of an insurance company but it demonstrates Dolfi&#39s down-to-earth touch.

There is, however, one week a year when he and his family up sticks – the Notting Hill Carnival. Having people use your front garden as a toilet is the line his management style of listening, empowerment and bringing out the best in individuals just will not cross.


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