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#AAYP 2013: Talent is ageless, but youth unemployment is a problem

TALENT IS AGELESS. At Standard Life, we believe the principles of developing future leaders apply whether you’ve just left school or got years of experience under your belt. The key to making talent development successful is how to apply those principles.

Setting the tone is crucial. It’s about creating the right picture, the right frame of mind. We help to create that feeling of championing talent in everything we say and do. We foster and encourage ambition but temper this with realistic expectations. We need to grow the leaders who will shape our businesses’ future. But at the same time we must develop sound commercial skills and financial literacy too.

Financial services is an incredibly diverse industry and there’s no universal formula for a ‘financial services professional’. As a foundation for anyone pursuing a career in finance, a solid understanding of the nature of the business and a level of commercial skill is a must.

The most critical part of talent development is the people themselves. And the vital ingredient they need to bring is attitude. We have around 1,300 people in our finance team, including accountants, risk managers, capital management experts and investor relations specialists. That’s a pretty formidable range of skillsets, but I’m convinced that attitude outweighs skill and experience and that makes the team what it is.

Although I’ve said that talent is ageless, youth employment is a problem issue in the UK today. Tomorrow’s leaders can begin their journey at any age, but businesses must recognise that young people need to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder. In Edinburgh, where Standard Life has its HQ, we’re partnering with the city council on an initiative that places young people – mostly school leavers – into paid work (on the Living Wage) where they’ll have the chance to show their talents and gain valuable work experience.

In our finance team, we have three young people working as part of the current scheme. And two people from previous schemes now have full-time jobs with us, after a successful application and interview.

I think this is a valuable way to help talented people get on that first step to a long and rewarding career.

Sandy Begbie is Standard Life’s group operations officer

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