Interview questions for jobs pt.1

Standard Life: Global Operations

 Intro: What do you know about SL ?

Standard Life Investments was originally launched in 1998 as an investment management company. With Headquartered in Edinburgh, Standard Life Investments maintain a presence in a number of locations around the world including Boston, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Beijing, Montreal, Sydney and Dublin. It manages circa £269 billion on behalf of clients worldwide. Investment capabilities span equities, bonds, real estate, private equity, multi-asset solutions, and absolute return strategies.

In recent years it has widened its geographical coverage and growth with a strategic alliance with Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Limited, one of the largest trust banks in Japan.

Since 2011, Standard Life Investments has successfully embedded its new brand positioning and visual identity. This included the launch of the ‘Potential Delivered’ concept. The company widened its brand awareness worldwide with the launch of its flagship GARS fund in the US through the John Hancock partnership. What’s really amazing is that, already GARS is one of the fastest- growing funds for the John Hancock organisation. Following this success, Standard Life Investments has further worked with John Hancock to launch a new fund; the John Hancock Global Conservative Absolute Return.

Standard Life investors rank among some of the world’s most sophisticated and high-profile institutions. They include corporate pension plans, banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, charities, sovereign wealth funds and government authorities.

The values and Philopshy that Standard Life Investments adhere to is really inspiring if I’m honest. Along side this, they operate using a disciplined risk management and shared commitment to a culture of investment excellence.

Standard Life Investments, core belief is that experienced investment professionals can consistently add value to client portfolios by exploiting market ine ciencies and deploying a robust and repeatable investment process that is highly disciplined, research-intensive and risk informed. The company practice a distinctive investment philosophy called Focus on Change. Its application helps to analyse the key factors driving the market price of an investment and to identify  the drivers that the wider market may not be pricing in. The Focus on Change philosophy recognises that different factors drive markets at different times in the investment cycle.

What’s really interesting is that the philosophy is not inherently growth or value biased nor momentum driven. This means that you have an opportunity to outperform throughout the cycle. Your aim is to anticipate what is changing and to exploit this before the market view comes into alignment with ours.

The statement made from Keith Skeoch, the chief executaive officer only emphasises how effective this philoopsohy is. Back in 2014 he stated that

“Our proven Focus on Change philosophy and our talented team have delivered performance in one of the most volatile ten-year periods known in financial markets.”

This has helped the company Sustain a record of strong and profitable growth in constantly evolving markets, driving investment performance, Diversify and expand investment capability through innovation & Increasse channel diversity. It’s astonishing

If we go back to 1825, Standard life was standing tall as one of the first empire builders and has been reassuring its clients on its ‘strength’, ‘stability’, and ‘security.’ Fast forward  the clock 70 years, it’s evident that this reassurance has paid off and helped Standard Life win  many prestigious awards such as Company of the year in 2011 and this year won the illustrious Best Platform Provider award. Achieving an award for demonstrating superior and consistent quality and service to clients and their advisers is exactly why it is one of the world’s most sophisticated and high-profile institutions.

Outside of the orginisation,

It was annoced in September this year that Standard Life Investments re-oped its 2.5billion property fund and allowed investors to pull money from it, reversing the Scottish investment group’s controversial decision in July to suspend withdrawals in an attempt to prevent a run on the fund. It originally suspended withdrawals as concerns mounted about UK property valuations after Britain’s vote to leave the EU. SLI said the decision to reopen the fund reflected the fact that the “commercial real estate market has stabilised.” Which is great news for SLI, The UK property fund sector appears to be returning to some semblance of normality, though there are still some big funds out there that are yet to open their gates. SLI are setting the benchmark. (M&G and Aviva Investors)

Standard Life Investments says it has appointed a new team and CEO in Singapore

The new team led by Choon Wah Wong , along with the growing Asia Pacific team, will strengthen your regional franchise and extend our global investment and product manufacturing capability. Building presence on the ground in Singapore allows SLI to be closer to investors and gain deeper insight into regional markets.

It may be slightly out of the scope of question but in light of Brexit..

Standard Life chairman Sir Gerry Grimstone said the firm believed access to the EU single market was in the best interests of its customers. The principle behind the Single Market is to encourage the free movement of goods and services within Europe and this creates an environment that gives individuals and businesses the confidence to invest for the long term

However, chief executive Keith Skeoch also stressed that continental Europe was a relatively small part of the group’s overall business. And post Brexit, it would not be a disaster for the company. He stressed that Standard Life is a “non-political organisation” that will “continue to act in the best interests of customers and clients.”

From a legal perspective, the new financial regulations coming into force in 2018, called The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II, will potentially give some British financial service firms an alternative way of accessing the single market, I would love the opportunity to sit down with Sir Gerry Grimstone and speak to him about this.


Standard Life Investments keep things very simple yet effective by asking 5 key questions to frame their investment ideas: You implement analysis and intelegent Judgement.

When it comes to analysis, questions that are asked are, what are the drivers, what is changing and what is priced in… when it comes to judgement, its why will the market change its mind and what is the trigger.

Standard Life Investments provides portfolio management services as a sub-adviser to John Hancock.

I really respect Mr Skeoch not only because of what he has done for the company but also for what he done back in 2015., In spite of growing profits by nine per cent at the end of his first financial year in 2015, Mr Skeoch volunteered to not accept the maximum bonus he had earned. He cut  this down by nearly £600,000.


The rationale behind him cutting his bonus was because there was a debate over how high the salary was. The reason why working for a man like him, would be incredible is that he made a statement saying he didn’t want it to become a distraction. He was soely focused on trying to move Standard life inot its next phase, and with so much to do he ddnt want his remuneration to get in the way of that. Outstanding, honestly. He sets the beanch mark for all chief executavies. This is one reason why SL is one of the best companies to work for.



Q1. Why have you applied for a position on the graduate programme with Standard life


It believe my talent and attitude will fit perfectly with the core values at Standard Life. I have the ambition and dedication to progress and develop in this organisation and along the way, make a major contribution to the overall success of the company. I will be committed  and strive to be to become a real valuable asset to the company.

Another reason was based on the companies emphasis on practical training. Allowing graduates to work with experienced people who will support you in making a direct contribution during each placement is a fantastic way for Standard Life to get the best out of your skills, talents and abilities. It would be fantastic to work for a global organisation which is places a significant emphasis on rigorous research and a strong collaborative ethos in order to make their clients feel at ease

Furthermore, I’ve read that we are supported by managers and mentors. The  ‘on desk’ training sounds exciting. Being supplemented by project work and internal and external courses on subjects ranging from team working and project management to technical investment topics is a great way to develop personal growth and this is something I really value. And I really admire SL for placing a great emphasis on professional and managerial development by allowing graduates to obtain  the Investment Administration Qualification (IOC and IMC).

Standard Life are committed to developing its employees and empowering them to make decisions and provide them with confidence to distil complex information when doing so. I can be a valuable asset to the team as I would remain focused and adaptable when learning new training. Not only that, I would also commit to personal development strategies in order to skyrocket my potential within this organisation.


Q2. Which business area have you applied for? What motivated you to apply for this business area?

I have applied to The Global Operations role. What really inspired me was knowing this role offers several distinct career routes within the organisation.

The operations area focuses on providing world class operational support to Standard Life Investments. Global Operations consists of a number of interlinked roles, supporting the investment management process and the distribution of our products. What really inspired me to apply was knowing that  as a graduate I will have responsibility and exposure to the senior leadership.  I could be involved in the pricing of our funds & assets, ensuring that our Investment Team & Client Managers have the right information in the right systems to do their job, or ensuring that the service we get from our outsourced service providers is fit for purpose. It would be fantastic to build scalability and flexibility into the operations in order to support the management and supplier relationships. Striving to deliver superior performance and profit targets in all operational areas is one of the fundamental reasons which motivated me to apply.

I’m seeking a role where I have an opportunity to make a real difference and be involved in improving and enhancing operational procedures.  Standard Life grants me this opportunity. Based on my research, this programme is about more than work shadowing. You are given the chance to do real work and as you progress, you’ll be asked to make recommendations and implement change within departments. This is well suited for me as I can display strong leadership talent and I am proactive in my approach. In doing so, will inevitably develop the broad ranging skills and experience needed to succeed in the sophisticated investment operations arena.

This role is effectivly like being in the heart of the company. What really motivated me about this position is the prospect of rotating between a number of areas, gaining insight into the key processes that keep the business running smoothly. Seeing first hand the workings of international investment markets, and learning how to manage people and processes. As I grow I will acquire an appetite for developing business solutions to respond to a diverse array of challenges. This on top of everything else, is why I applied to this position.

If I am being honest, I want to follow in the footsteps of Mike Tumilty – the director of operations. I think is story is truly motivating. He joined Standard Life as a graduate in 1994, he spent 2 years as a business consultant and after that was appointed head of mutual funds operations. In 2005 he was the Head of Investement operations and in 2010 he was appointed as as Executive directior of Operations. He achompolished all this in 16 years.. I want to reach the same level.








Competency Based questions:


Name a time when you solved a complex problem?


Last year at university, I served as the treasurer of the Abertay law society & one of my duties as treasuer was to ensure money was being spent apropriatly and not excessively. This could range from organising law balls and night outs to organising charity fundrasing events. So, at one point during the semester one member had approached me said that they heard a rumour that one of our executive members was stealing money from our club account and using that money for their own personal purposes. To make the situation even more complicated, the person who these alligations were made agaisnt, was a very good friend of mine. But, I knew what I had to do as treasuer and put my personal feelings aside. So, I pulled this individual aside and I spoke with the president and vice president of the law society and luckly the whole situation just turned out to be a rumour and a misunderstanding of our club members. However, this taught me that its important to investigate each side of an alligation before rushing to make a hasty decision, in order to ensure the most beneficial outcome can be achieved when solving a problem.


How do you keep up with financial news?


I have always had an innate curiosity about how the world works and keeping up with the latest news has always been a predominant facotor within my law degree.  This makes it  natural to stay abrest of what is going on around me. I keep up with my industry in 3 main ways: subscribing to the Financial times website for all the up to date news,  following many investors on Twitter as my Twitter feed is a real-time view on what top industry leaders are currently reading which is always facinating and gives me an deeper insight into things going on and, I have many apps on my phone which I log into which is great as they also send me  newsletters , which is an excellent as it summariss news, stats and trends in the financial industry every morning.



Describe a time when you have decidied to do something out of your comfort zone?


Brexit Essay:  This year our essay for competition law, in light of Brexit, was to analyse the affects Brexit would have on UK based businesses. This was challengign based on the fact there was no acadmeci literature written about the topic nor was there really any legal publiicatons to refer to. This was all about our own opinion in a legal perspective which made this essay one of the most challenging.



It was able to use my initative and study potential impacts from topics I felt there would be major concern..








Tell me about a time you worked on a team


In my call centre role at Sky, we were split into teams by department (so it was tv sales v broadband sales)  to work Black Friday and each department would compete to achieve the highest sales. My team and I made an action plan to have each person cover a specific product. We managed to set our teleopti systems to only receive specifc calls so we could place the strongest canidates where they would be best suited and this way,  no customer would be an oversight and go without assistance. We ended up with a 10% increase in sales from the previous year and the highest number of sales among all the departments. We demonstrated ambition to win and a competitive spirit. I was awarded sales persons of the week and had my picture on the wall of fame. Even though it was short lived, it was a nice acolade to acheieve.


Name a time you LED a team


If I have a team member who is not living up to expectations, I would first try to investigate why the individual is having a problem and whether it is something I can help solve.


Working on last years debate project for employement law, the essence of team work was crucial. myself and my team had set up a timeline of how we wanted to progress and organise the work load.  We all had separate cases to analyse and each judgement would streghtne the other in a logical order, creating the perfect strucute to argue with. A team member of mine had let us know she had received some bad news and began falling behind on her work for the group project.  This had delayed us in getting the script created and practise time to go over it. Although the rest of the team were growing frustrated with her lack of input, this was a group matter and I knew it was my responsibility to see us through. I spent time working on her part while she was away, and when she returned, I spent about 5/6 hours helping her catch up on the script so that our progress would not be more hindered.  By me doing this, we were able to still meet the deadline for the submission and had a fantastic result.

As a team leader, it’s my responsibility to keep the team moving forward and progressing through our tasks, which is what I managed to do.