Q&A: Ross Willmott, HO Business Development at Standard Life

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Workplace Thought Leadership Team

September 16, 2022

2 mins read

Tell us about your career, what has led you to where you are today?

I joined AXA in 2001, managing their staff scheme and a host of other defined benefit (DB) schemes. Throughout the various mergers and acquisitions over the next 20 years, I enjoyed various roles, including leading AXA’s defined contribution (DC) Implementation team, which was my first step into a sales environment. Having led the Implementation team for five years, I capitalised on the emergence of the Asset Transition Management within DC schemes. Here, I built a team of 20 transition specialists from scratch.

In 2017, having spent 10 years working alongside and supporting sales teams, I became a fully fledged business development director. I love working in a sales environment and working for and alongside some of the very best in the industry.

What are your high-level views on the current market?

With the focus on master trusts continuing to grow, alongside the maintained importance of contract-based schemes, we need to evidence a true member-centric approach. It’s more important than ever that we provide high service; strong investment performance; and quality proposition – alongside great member engagement. I’ve never seen a time where our holistic approach across service and proposition is so seeped with customer needs.

Future developments around dashboard, collective defined contribution and increased focus on value for members will lead to increased innovation to provide integrated member journeys. For example, I anticipate a lot of innovation around financial wellness, in order to support members beyond just their pension and equip them with the educational material so they have greater control of their finances. The cost-of-living crisis has heightened people’s need to have a more holistic overview of their finances, and the ability to manage their money across the short, medium and long term.

What excites you most about the future at Standard Life?

With such strong service and a great proposition, everything is in place to make a real difference to people’s financial wellness and quality of life in retirement. In the UK, more people are living for longer , which poses many questions about how people plan their finances and retirement. At Standard Life, we can play a critical role in helping people to make better informed decisions about their long-term savings and, by extension, how they spend the latter stages of their lives. Through our strong service, proposition and investment performance, we can make a real difference to the lives of millions of people.

What will you bring to the role?

I want to ensure my team has the space, autonomy and accountability to help shape our solutions in the market and drive our internal developments. I also intend to have a strong presence externally and ensure Standard Life continues to be recognised as a thought leader. Just this year, through our Thinking Forward thought leadership programme, Standard Life has helped to ignite discussion around diversity, equity and inclusion; dashboards; and pension reform by learning from other countries’ pension systems. I look forward to us driving further industry debate later this year and in 2023.

Outside of work

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Usually my hyper-active six-year-old son, Felix – at about 6am!

What do you like to do with your time off?

Family time is very important to me. I also like to keep active and enjoy exercising, when I’m not injured.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in pensions?

It would have to be something I’m passionate about – which sadly is DIY and trying to fix things! A recent success has been a complete renovation of my home office.

What is your party trick/hidden talent?

I’m very cautiously learning to ride a unicycle… it’s not easy!

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