Accountancy

"I did not imagine that in such a short time I would have already had such a wide range of experiences." Catrin Jones, Accounts Graduate

Our accounting team plays a big part in how our business performs. It provides the analysis and information to allow accurate budgeting, forecasting and reporting. It also offers expertise to support and inform the business decisions we take.

We look for people with excellent analytical skills, and the drive to make those skills count. An ability to see the bigger picture is important too – to help you to make balanced decisions, and communicate clearly with whomever you’re working with.

You’ll have rotational placements across different teams in our finance department – all with important projects and real responsibilities. This could include financial analysis, corporate transaction accounting, or helping to deliver the financial results of a FTSE 100 company to the market. And you’ll have the chance to put your project management and presentation skills into practice.

The variety in the programme can really help your professional development. It’s tailored to help you play to your strengths. That’s as well as the study support on offer, towards a qualification from one of two professional bodies – The Institute of Chartered Accountants for Scotland (ICAS) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

And throughout your three-year programme, you’ll have the support of your mentor, placement manager, and the big community of fellow graduates across the company.

  • Duration: Three years
  • Structure: Five to six different placements
  • Development: A series of professional exams to become a member of either ICAS or CIMA.
  • Entry requirements: Minimum 2:1 degree in any discipline.

Read the below stories to hear from some of Graduates who have been in the same position as you, along with one of their placement managers:

Catrin Jones

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What were you studying before joining Standard Life?

Before I joined Standard Life I was studying Accounting and Finance at the University of Stirling.

How would you describe our culture?

Standard Life really cares for their employees and I think that is clear when you start working here. During my first day I was introduced to the various different communities that are available within Standard Life, such as the young person’s development network. As well as these great networks you begin to create your own unofficial group with the other graduates, with so many great team building and development exercises we all became friends quickly. Everyone I have met during my placements have been so kind and helpful, I think the culture of Standard Life is definitely reflected in every employee.

What do you think is the main benefit for a graduate working at Standard Life?

Although I knew I wanted to be an accountant, when I graduated I was unsure as to what type of accountant I wanted to be. The graduate scheme offers 5 placements over the 3 years in various areas, such as reporting, tax and audit. This appealed to me as it allows to me gain experience in different parts of the business, a feature of the graduate scheme which I did not see in many other companies.

Were you a previous intern with Standard Life, if so, what made you want to return?

Yes, I was a summer intern before I started my final year of University. When I was offered a place on the graduate scheme I was delighted as I had enjoyed my time with Standard Life. I was surprised during the internship by how much responsibility and work I was given, and during the 10 weeks I got to learn a lot about the company and so I was excited to return and continue my development.

What projects have you been involved in since you joined?

Although I have only been with Standard Life for 9 months I have already had placements in different areas of the company. During my first placement I helped produce parts of the annual accounts for Standard Life Wealth and Standard Life Investments. I am currently placed in the assets team for the pension’s aspect of the company and my next placement is going to be in group reporting. I did not imagine that in such a short time I would have already had such a wide range of experiences.

John Sutherland

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What were you studying before joining Standard Life?

I did an undergraduate in MA Business Studies and Accountancy at Edinburgh University and then a post grad in MSc International Business and Emerging Markets (also at Edinburgh Uni)

How would you describe our culture?

At Standard Life we have quite a ‘cool, calm and collected’ culture. One where people think things through before they act, seek to understand the problems and ultimately aim to get it right first time. In addition to this, it’s quite a supportive and friendly culture where people are able to reach out and speak to other parts of the business relatively easily and where there’s a great deal of investment in people’s development and well-being

What do you think is the main benefit for a graduate working at Standard Life?

The main benefit for a graduate is probably the access and variety they get from the programme. Most programmes will involve some kind of rotation/placements structure which means that graduates can get a real breadth in what they see and work on. In most cases you end up with a really strong understanding of how this FTSE 100, global Investment Company is run. Also, because we are head quartered in Edinburgh you will be located right in the centre of this global business. This means that on an everyday basis you can get close to all the functions and people who make this company work. I also found that a high level of exposure to senior leaders and executives was prevalent throughout the graduate schemes, which is not something you will always find in other companies.

Why did you decide to join Standard Life?

I joined Standard Life for three reasons:

  • I wanted to get into the Asset Management/Investment industry and Standard Life is fast becoming a leading player in this industry, globally
  • The Finance programme which I wanted to do offered me the chance to do my Chartered Accountancy qualification with ICAS whilst getting exposure to a range of accounting and finance functions
  • The HQ is in Edinburgh and as a result, the hub of the global operation is located in the city which means a high level of exposure to the wider company and the people running it, as opposed to being in a regional/country office of a company with an HQ elsewhere.

What has been your proudest moment so far?

A difficult choice but probably the top are:

  • Being a co-host/compere for our Finance Conference at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. I co-hosted Q&A panels with Executives from across the business including a one-on-one with the CEO and panel discussions with the CFO and his senior leadership team, the Chief Strategy Officer, UK Distribution Director and the Managing Director of Elevate in front of over 400 staff
  • Being a part of the central deal team who helped negotiate and agree the proposed £12bn merger between Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life. When we announced, it made headlines across the news and I did get quite a feeling of pride out of the fact something I was a key part of was national news, as well as being one of the most significant events in the company’s nearly 200 year history. As part of the merger completion work, I also co-project managed the filing of our submissions/merger notifications to the four competition authorities to obtain their approval for our proposed merger. When we got the approval from the final authority, the CMA it was again reported in the news and again for the work I was doing to have that level of profile and impact was a real source of pride.

What projects have you been involved in since you joined?

  • I was part of the Central Deal team who helped negotiate and agree the proposed £12bn merger between Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life
  • As mentioned, I co-project managed the competition authority filing process which was a process that involved coordination with over 70 stakeholders across the business, submissions to authorities in 4 jurisdictions (the US, Ireland, Germany and the UK) and the collection of c300 separate pieces of data/information relating to our company, how we operate and compete. We received all approvals ahead of schedule
  • I am also supporting the proposed IPO of our Indian JV, HDFC Life.

Would you recommend the Standard Life graduate programme to your friends & family? And why?

Absolutely. I honestly can’t praise the programme enough. You get breadth, depth and real insight into how a global FTSE 100 company is run. The quality of training/development you get is fantastic and you have a wealth of experience/knowledge to draw on from your colleagues. This is an organisation that has an impact on literally millions of people across the globe whether it’s shareholders, customers, employees or charities. Not only that, soon we are about to become one of the largest investment companies in the world! Doing a graduate programme at Standard Life puts you at the heart of that and as a result you get development and a real sense of belonging/ownership I don’t believe is common in most programmes.

What advice would you give to someone joining the programme?

There is a balance to be struck between pushing yourself/ambition and allowing others to influence your ‘direction’. It’s a fine balance but a crucial one to respect. Many people who come onto graduate programmes expect the world at their feet when they arrive which is great in that they are ambitious, have drive and a sense of direction but too much of that and you can start to lose the benefit of other people’s experience and opinions. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily a great way to build relationships in a business. Therefore it is so very important to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. I believe that genuine value can be gained from everything you do so long as you work for it and have the right attitude.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying?

Three things to focus on demonstrating when applying:

  • Self-awareness: with a very few exceptions, where you’ve studied/what you’ve studied, what type of part-time work you have, what extra-curricular stuff you do and etc. is essentially irrelevant. What Standard Life care about is that you can demonstrate that you reflect on past experiences, learn from them and understand how that relates to other contexts (e.g. the workplace)
  • Commitment to learning and development: embarking on a graduate programme is a long term investment for both you and the company. What is valuable to the company (and should be to you!) is that you are constantly seeking to improve and develop. If you can demonstrate that constantly pushing and developing yourself is important to you and you have examples of this in your past then you’re demonstrating that you have the drive and ability to deliver real value.
  • Passion for the industry: I’m not saying you need to tell everyone that working in investments has been a lifelong dream but you do need to demonstrate your interest in it and the company. Research the company and the industry before you apply and try to learn what’s happening. Put it this way, if you expect someone to invest in and take an interest in you then you should also invest in and take an interest in them. There’s plenty of applicants who do take an interest so don’t trip yourself at the first hurdle.

Cathy Husband

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What value do graduates bring to your department?

Graduates bring enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude into the department. They like a challenge and enjoy the opportunity to learn and develop in different environments.

Why should applicants choose to join your department & Standard Life?

Standard Life is a great place to work. I joined the TOPPS scheme back in 2000 and have remained with Standard Life since then. There are so many opportunities to work on different projects and tasks within the department and within Standard Life as a whole. Secondments and opportunities to learn in other teams and areas is actively encouraged.

What projects can graduates expect to be involved in?

Many TOPPS students have been involved in corporate projects within Standard Life such as acquisitions and mergers as well as technical areas such as exploring new accounting standards and new systems and taking on real ownership for driving these initiatives forward.

What career opportunities can they expect?

There are many career opportunities as a result of a graduate role within Standard Life, whether that’s a people manager, a project manager, a head of reporting, a fund manager and many more.

What advice would you give to graduates joining your area?

Grasp the opportunities as they arise and really get involved in what is going on within the department and the Company as a whole. Make a real effort to speak to people across all areas of the Company, learn more about what they do and have a wide network of contacts that you can really use in the future.

In order for us to reach our goal of becoming a world-class investment company, we require world-class talent. If you believe you have the potential to help us achieve our ambitions and start your career with a growing organisation, apply below.

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