New standard for excellence
At 185 years, Standard Life is among the longest serving insurance and wealth managers around. But even a trusty, old hand can do with a new look sometimes. Rick Gangwani meets with Andy Clachers, the company's chief operating officer for Hong Kong, to discuss its recent repositioning, digital product development and potential hiring plans.
What was the thinking behind the repositioning?
Any company that has been here for a long time and that is going to continue to grow in the future has to keep up with the times.
As the world changes and our customers look for more, we have to reposition ourselves accordingly.
What were some of the changes you sought to address?
After the global financial crisis, we found that while people still want to receive financial advice, they also want to be more involved with the decision-making process.
They want to know where they're invested and how their investments are linked.
That was really the point of our new web and mobile platforms - to make it easier for them to keep track of their investments.
Do you find yourself hiring more for communications skills now?
Honestly speaking, we've always looked for good communicators.
I think the emphasis is on management to take people with good communication skills and help them bring out those skills a little more.
At the moment, we're very focused on internal training and how we project ourselves to customers.
As such, we've re-written a lot of our standard letters, and have asked our telephone staff to use simpler language.
Do you plan to take on additional staff in the near future?
Our hiring numbers have gone up by 300 per cent over the past few years.
So looking forward, as our customer base starts to expand, we would see ourselves hiring more staff in a number of positions across the company.
What can those working for you expect in terms of training?
We offer a variety of classroom courses and on-the-job training. This is all part of a wider Standard Life Group initiative.
The classroom training is supplemented by role-playing, and during on-the-job training, where the first-line managers reinforce what has been taught and learned in the classroom.
During the recent rebranding, we even arranged for some experts from the UK to fly in to work with the staff. We also had some locally based employees who were able to train their colleagues.
What do you offer in terms of work-life-balance?
In our company we don't want to judge people by how long they stay in the office. We want to judge them by how much they deliver.
So having work-life balance for our employees is very important. People have to feel fresh so that when they're talking to customers that freshness is reflected in their, conversations.
What keeps you working for the company?
I feel very proud to work for Standard Life, because managers elsewhere tend to talk a lot about helping customers. A lot of people say that customers are at the heart of everything they do. But when you work for this company, you can actually feel it.
There's a strong desire among all our staff, from the most senior to the most junior, to do a good job in serving our clients. It gives a certain pride to people, a certain satisfaction. I'm working for an organisation that's always trying to do better, so I feel quite motivated - I have a lot of energy.
And this tends to be a company where those with self-motivation and energy are rewarded.