STANDARD LIFE IS a well-known insurance and investment brand in many parts of the world, but is relatively unknown in Hong Kong and throughout the rest of Asia. Alan Armitage, recently appointed chief executive of Standard Life (Asia), says that is about to change. 'Standard Life wants to grow its operations in the Asia region, particularly Greater China, and Hong Kong will be the hub. We already have a licence for Hong Kong, and Hong Kong has the right infrastructure to grow a business,' Mr Armitage said. The company, founded in Scotland in 1821 and with managed funds of more than #100billion (HK$1.53 trillion), is looking to recruit in four key areas in Hong Kong: business development, marketing, sales and service. All recruits will be expected to have drive, enthusiasm, energy and an eye for growing a valuable brand. Experienced salespeople with an understanding of financial markets are needed now to manage the accounts of distribution partners. Service people are needed to process applications, deal with customer inquiries and provide 'real service'. Mr Armitage said: 'Service people need to have passion about good customer service. They need to go out of their way without being overpowering. 'Administrators follow rules. A customer service person asks why are there four steps when we can do it in one?' Marketing people are needed to build a Standard Life brand in Asia. Applicants need to be creative and capable of coming up with ideas that can help people understand the link between products and their needs. Applicants should have the vision and ability to bring products to life. People applying for the business development positions will have to develop and engineer the business from the point of view of a customer. 'We need people who can think of things from a customer's perspective by taking an outside-in view. If you develop a business by looking through the eyes of a prospective customer, you do things effectively and will satisfy the customer,' Mr Armitage said. 'Anyone joining this organisation will be part of building a business. We are not just looking for people to work in the wheelhouse. We are looking for people to develop the wheel and then hold it tight and turn it as fast as possible.' The growth strategy for Standard Life is to build partnerships with independent financial advisers, rather than selling wealth creation services directly to the public. 'Rather than having investment products that are just in-house, we have an open architecture using external fund managers. In many cases we will be a larger organisation than the distributing partners, allowing us to help them grow their business through access to our established worldwide knowledge and resources.' While Asia is renowned for good customer service, Mr Armitage is not convinced this excellence has been transferred across to the financial services market, which he feels has too much of an 'administration' rather than a 'service' focus. 'Someone that takes out a Standard Life policy has not just bought a product; they have entered into a contract with us and they have reasonable expectations about what this should provide. Even though our products are sold through an intermediary, our customer services will phone every policy holder within the 14 day cooling-off period to make sure the product is right for them,' he said. Mr Armitage is a clear example of someone who has made it to the top of the corporate world without having a long list of paper qualifications from an expensive and prestigious university. He left school at the age of 16 to work delivering the internal post in a local government department while studying evenings for a certificate in computer data processing. It was while delivering the mail that Mr Armitage learned about business. 'I used to talk to people as I delivered the mail. My boss used to complain because I would take two hours to do the deliveries, while he could do it in 30 minutes. 'But it was talking to people that allowed me to get a feel for the different roles in an organisation and how it fitted together.' Mr Armitage is optimistic about the success of Standard Life in Hong Kong and throughout Asia, but is keeping his feet firmly on the ground recalling advice given to him at the beginning of his career: 'Never get too high on the highs and too low on the lows.'