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'I try to blend the best from East and West'

Published on Friday, 03 Jan 2014
Roy Halliday
CEO – Hong Kong, Standard Life

How is your company structured?

We have sales, marketing, legal, risk and compliance, operations - which includes underwriting, customer services and operational relationship management - people, finance, actuarial, IT, business analysis, project management and product development. Our sales people talk to IFAs [independent financial advisers] and distribution partners, while public relations talk to media. Actuarial does all the very difficult calculations. They are like research - they help us to price products. I spend time across all departments. My role as CEO is to ensure all departments are efficient and successful.

What is an average work day like?

There is no average day. Your day is very varied, with many tasks throughout the day. That's what makes it interesting and challenging.

There are regular meetings with my staff, which involves going to their work space or my office. Many of my meetings are informal. I have a very open-door policy. I like them to come without any appointment.

Did you plan your career?

I never planned to join Standard Life. I was a professional football player and I had a bad injury. When I joined 26 years ago, I always wanted to take the very difficult job - doing what other people do not want to do. My bosses saw that I'm someone who is looking to progress.

I worked for different functions in the company, so I know what other people are doing. I have a good understanding of each function. That's very important to help you grow your career in a big company, so you can understand what the challenges are.

How does one excel in insurance?

I am very ambitious, I like to learn, I like to listen, I like to develop myself.

And flexibility is important as well for working in an insurance company. The other thing is to be respectful of other peoples' culture and opinion.

Clearly, teamwork is important. You need to be successful as both an individual and as a team.

Doing any of those professional exams is good. But most importantly, if you demonstrate all those qualities, the exams will help you on the way to the top. If you have the exams qualification but you don't have any other qualities, you won't go very far.

How would you characterise the Standard Life work culture?

We have a very multicultural staff. We now have 170 staff, compared with 24 seven years ago. We have 10 different nationalities - Hongkongers, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Australian, Singaporean, Malaysia, Irish, English and I am Scottish.

One of the things I try to do here is I try to blend the best from the East and the best from the West. Many of our staff bring ideas from their countries. Hopefully, here at Standard Life, we do not have one culture but many cultures.

We think we're different from other [firms] as we are not very hierarchical. I want my senior management to be accessible to their staff.

What's the biggest reward of working in insurance?

Obviously, not money. I do work for money but I work because I want to work. There is a famous saying that if you do a job you love, you will never feel like you are working. Do something that you enjoy. You spend so much time at work and it is important to be happy in your career.

When I started as a customer service representative at Standard Life, I never expected to become its CEO 26 years later. That's the reward. I came from the bottom of the ladder.

Roy Halliday, CEO – Hong Kong, Standard Life

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