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The inspiration that drives David Tiller

David Tiller

David Tiller, Head of Adviser and Wealth Manager Propositions at Standard Life, reveals who and what inspires him, his career-defining moment, and why he’s excited about the future of the advisory market

David Tiller
David Tiller, Head of Adviser and Wealth Manager Propositions at Standard Life

Which development has most surprised you in your time in the industry?

I'm hugely impressed by the ability of the marketplace collectively to get over a 50-year commission habit. It's an incredible achievement and so I feel sad that negativity about our market persists. We're not a market known for exuding ‘force for good' positivity - yet that's what we are.

I think we can be very proud of the UK's long-term savings and investments market. It's as clean and professional as any market and there's no doubt that customers are getting a better service than they've ever done - and are better off as a result. It's an inspiring progression from the once traditional sales-led culture.

What are you most encouraged by/excited about in the year ahead?

I'm most positive about our relationship with advisers. There's a real willingness to rid ourselves of product-led thinking and instead move to a more service-oriented, higher-value relationship.

Our focus is firmly on giving advisers the best possible experience to allow them to deliver for their clients and build successful businesses.

The most powerful factor of this commitment, and what inspires me personally, is that our commercial success is entirely aligned to the commercial success of advisers and to the life outcomes of their clients.

Which investment decision are you most proud of?

Possibly my least sophisticated; taking out a with profits endowment within six months of starting work, which meant I established a savings habit early in my adult years. However, I realise that the main reason that old endowment got me to embrace saving was because you didn't get your money back unless you stuck with it until the end. As a young man who may have opted to spend his spare cash on beer, I liked the discipline the endowment placed on me - and in the end it gave me the deposit for my first house.

What's your career-defining moment?

Helping to make Standard Life's Wrap the first major platform to fully unbundle charges and become transparent. And in the process secure fund discounts and embed the term ‘super clean' into the industry.

At the time, there was a lot of suspicion about whether platforms were benefiting commercially through secretly pocketing revenues from bundled fee structures and rebates. We never did this, but moving to a fully clean and transparent model confirmed this.

Transparency has been hugely beneficial for clients, helping to drive down fees and encourage innovation - resulting in the huge range of competitive investment choices now available.

Outside of investments what's your dream job?

While I was studying marine biology at university I aspired to be Jacques Cousteau. But since then, I sometimes hanker after a very content existence as chef/proprietor running my own vibrant restaurant. Though I suspect the reality of that situation would be quite different as the stress and anti-social hours kick in!

(When pressed as to what his signature dish would be, David struggled to pick only one. But he did admit to confit duck with puy lentils and savoy cabbage as a favourite comfort dish.)

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

It was from an expert in presentation skills, he said: "the most successful presentation you will ever do - is you". He meant that it's better to optimise what you're natural and comfortable with, rather than force an approach that makes you feel and look awkward.

His advice is true in so many situations and it complements a strengths-based philosophy I've embraced throughout my career. I really feel that trying to get people to mitigate their weaknesses is counterproductive - it will not motivate your people or enhance your business results. On the other hand, you can achieve transformational results if you support a person in nurturing their strengths. Ultimately, it's about working towards being the best version of your true self.

Who's the most inspiring person you've met and why?

I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Dr Julian Coutts, Standard Life Investments' Chief Scientific Officer, who passed away in 2008 aged just 45. At the time I was working with him and Richard Charnock in establishing Standard Life Wealth, Julian had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer yet this never affected the way he behaved.

Julian was the brightest person I have met. Numbers spoke to him and his quantitative analysis was second to none. But it was his human touch that really marked him out. He loved people and was kind, self-deprecating (including ripping apart his own academic research in the guise of Ozzy Osborne) and engaging; prioritising friends, colleagues and family above himself.

Julian made a difference in the fields of rocket science, oil exploration and multi-asset investing, and was the most dignified human being I've met. If I can be half as good, then I will be doing well.

If you were to give a family member one piece of investment advice, what would it be?

Simple: do it and do it regularly, while not making themselves reliant on uncrystallised profits. Oh, and make sure their investments are as tax-efficient as possible.