Preparing for SMF interviews

I help a lot of senior managers prepare for interview by the Prudential Regulation Authority (the PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA). Indications from both regulators are that authorisation will become a more onerous process, with fewer successful applicants. I expect senior managers regime interviews for approval to carry out a senior manager function (SMF) will become more onerous too. I’m setting out below a few thoughts on how candidates can prepare for those interviews, whether they’re working for an applicant firm or a firm that’s already authorised. This isn’t a definitive list but it should be a good starting point.

1           Identify areas the regulators will want to talk about – sometimes, you’ll be told in advance about one or more topics the regulators will want to discuss. The Compliance team, the HR team or someone else who’s arranging the interview might be able to identify where the regulators’ interest lies. But there’ll be other clues.

  • What’s been the subject of the applicant’s or the firm’s recent discussions with, or communications from, the regulators?
  • What are the hot topics in the applicant’s or firm’s sector?
  • What are the key items on your learning and development plan?
  • What questions would you ask you?

2          Be ready to run through your career and how you came to be appointed to the SMF role – the regulators will have heard the firm’s account of how they appointed you in the SMF approval application but they’ll probably want to hear why you’re interested in the role, the experience you have, the research you carried out in respect of the firm and why you think you should be approved for the function. This might take the form of a big, open question at the start of the interview, and it’s worth having something you can tweak in response. A confident answer to an early question will set you up for the rest of the interview.

3          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. If there’s a problem point, it might be sensible for that to be raised with the regulators beforehand, rather than you explaining it during the interview.

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

5          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. 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.

6          Have questions ready – you’ll almost certainly be asked if you have any questions and you need two or three up your sleeve. Asking only one of them is fine; it might be about next steps or something specific from 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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