The Business On... David Nish, Chief executive, Standard Life

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The Independent Online

All together now, "O Canadaaa..."

You would be referring to that country to the north of the US that has enabled Standard Life's boss to deliver a rather non-standard set of results (profits up 44 per cent at £262m). Mr Nish has confounded the City's expectations on the upside, which is rather rare these days.

That must be pleasing given that he wasn't Standard's first choice.

You mean all those rumours that Standard had some overseas whizz-kid in mind when Sandy Crombie left in 2009 after completing quite a turnaround? Now then, don't be mean. The Glasgow Rangers fan has scored this time around. We should be celebrating.

He's not a Standard Lifer, then?

Hardly. In fact, the army of Edinburgh folk who seem to work for Standard from cradle to grave aren't necessarily fans of Mr Nish's – he has conducted something of a clear-out among their ranks. Joining Standard when you leave school is no longer the safe bet it once was.

How high can he climb?

Are you talking about Standard or the mountains he likes to scale in his spare time? In fact, he reached the top of Kilimanjaro between leaving Scottish Power and joining Standard Life. At 19,341 feet above sea level it counts as Africa's highest mountain and you have to be in pretty good physical shape to do it.

So what's he like?

Determined, certainly, but people say he can be hot-tempered and a hard man to disagree with. He's lucky that Standard, despite all its recent travails, has a band of loyal customers who pocketed windfalls from the insurer's demutualisation and happily keep paying in their premiums to keep the earnings healthy when Mr Nish faces the City. That's useful, given relations with analysts have sometimes been a tad fraught.

And what's he done?

Well, he has a lot of work to do if he's going to match Mr Crombie's achievements. He's made some bold moves – such as targeting the consumer direct, thus reducing Standard's dependence on financial advisers – but the jury's probably still out.