I help a lot of applicants prepare for interview by the Prudential Regulation Authority (the PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA) as part of the senior management function approval process. Here are some points that might be helpful if you’re called for interview.

1           Check the application documents at least ten days before the interview – the application pack will make up the bulk of what the regulators know about you and it’s likely that some of the interview questions will be driven by what’s in the application documents. My experience is that there are usually points that are inconsistent, unclear, out-of-date or not covered in full in application packs (and I’m thinking, here, of the pack as a whole, not just the Form A). The points I see most frequently are L&D plans that are too brief or cover too short a period, inconsistencies in responsibilities attached to the role and competency assessments that don’t consider all of the skills required to perform a role. Checking the application documents at least ten days before the interview should give enough time to tell the regulators about any points that need to be updated, clarified or corrected. And it’s good interview prep too.

2          Set aside time to prepare for the interview – it might seem obvious, but you need to block out time to immerse yourself in the application and what the regulators will want to find out and test. It’s very, very hard to do that when you have the day-job to do as well. Be rigorous and block out prep time.

3          Don’t get too hung up about the agenda – the regulators usually send an agenda before the interview but my experience is this is usually too general to be helpful: ‘governance’, ‘culture’, ‘the business model’ and ‘the Consumer Duty’ are often as specific as it gets although there are occasionally useful steers. Regardless, focus on the things you’d ask if you were a regulator interviewing someone with your background, taking on a role with the responsibilities you’ll have, at the firm you’ll be at.

4          Prepare your answer to the likely first question – this is often along the lines of Tell us about your background and how you come to be [specify intended position]. This question looks easy but a lot of people are lulled into a false sense of security and head down rabbit holes. The answer needs to have enough – relevant – detail but not too much. It shouldn’t be too long. And it will set the tone for how you’re regarded for the rest of the interview. Practice it and variations.

5          Go deep and go wide – SMF interviews generally involve big, open questions – e.g. What are the key challenges for [firm] and its business model over the next twelve months? – but you need to have a lot of detail at your fingertips to answer a question like this with authority and it’s very hard to be convincing if you don’t have that foundation of deep knowledge to draw on. I suggest prep involves deep dives around specific questions in order to inform answers to the broader questions.

6          Think about the questions you don’t want to be asked – there’ll be a few and you probably won’t want to prepare for them. However, looking them in the eye can de-fang them quite effectively. Running through those points with someone – Compliance; Legal; Risk; the CEO or Chair – can be helpful too. And if there’s a problem point, it might be sensible for that to be raised with the regulators beforehand, rather than you having to explain it during the interview.

7          It’s ok to go back to an answer you gave earlier in the interview and clarify or expand on what you said – it shows you’ll make an effort to ensure the regulators have the right information and understand the point you’re making (see senior manager conduct rule 4). And if you remember something crucial after the interview, it might be appropriate to send a follow-up email correcting or adding to what you’ve said to ensure the regulators have the right information and haven’t been misled.

8          Have examples to hand – examples make something you’re talking about come to life and they show your experience. Ideally, have a couple of examples for each of the topics you think may be covered at the interview.

Preparing for an interview takes time but there’s no substitute. And you can go to the interview confident that you’re in the best position to give it your best shot.


This article is intended to provide general information about recent and expected items that might be of interest. It does not provide or constitute, or purport to provide or constitute, advice relevant to any particular circumstances. Legal or other professional advice relevant to any particular circumstances should always be sought.


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