With more than five decades in the business, I think I know what it takes to be a good financial planner. I’m passionate about bringing more young people into the profession, having helped launch a degree course at the University of Bradford in the past. Here, I offer some nuggets of wisdom from my long and winding career.
1. Be confident in your worth, and present yourself well
Some of the best advice I got was at my first job. I started working for the Halifax Building Society in 1960, and the new Financial Director asked me if I saw my future with the firm. I replied that I wasn't sure, because I'd already reached the top of the salary scale. He paused, and then asked me, "What would you do if you were selling your house?"
I replied: "I'd clean the windows, give the walls a fresh lick of paint, mow the lawn and advertise it. Then, I'd take the best price."
He nodded and asked what I'd do if I was going to sell my car.
I replied: "I'd clean it inside and out, remove any rust blemishes, and polish it until it shone. Then I'd advertise and take the top price."
He nodded again. Then, he suggested that I do the same with myself as I would with any other product. Make myself as attractive a prospect as possible, let the marketplace know I'm available and take the best possible offer.
That advice still stands. If you want the best possible opportunities, you've got to make yourself shine – and be confident about it, too.
2. Be ready to put in the time
Financial planning is a role you grow into. Advising is such a complex area, and a depth of knowledge is fundamental. If Ebor were taking on apprentices, we'd be looking for someone with the passion and drive to achieve Chartered Status. It's a big course and takes a lot of time and effort to see it through.
Even once you get a job, it might be a while before you're allowed to advise. For example, one of our advisers is 35, and was working with us for two years before officially getting sign-off to work directly with clients.
He had the academic qualifications, but we wanted to ensure he had the knowledge and experience. During the past two years he built up his soft skills and record keeping. You've got to be so careful about documentation these days – and rightly so.
3. It's an excellent option for a career change
One of the best things about being a financial planner is that people from all backgrounds come to it. You don't have to have worked in finance previously. In fact, one of our advisers is an ex-professional football player!
He already had a business degree, he's very intelligent and always immaculately turned out. When he came to me and said he was considering a career change, I was delighted. He already had all the skills to succeed.
Lots of ex-army people also become planners – the order and discipline suits them. I think there's plenty of scope to transfer your soft skills, so don't be afraid to make the leap.
4. Give something back
Training at the younger end of the scale is extremely important, as there's such lack of young blood in our industry.
My Operations Director, Jelena Savonina, has been instrumental in encouraging more young people to become financial advisers. She often does employment talks to students at the University of Bradford. When younger people see and hear about planning through her, it suddenly makes sense. Yet without that, there’s very little exposure to the concept of planning as a role, so how will young people know it’s there?
I’d love more of us to help young up-and-comers as much as possible. I met Jelena when she was on placement with us in her third year of university, and we got on like a house on fire.
I made special arrangements so that she could continue working with us in her final year. I also ensured she was able to continue studying, without having to work multiple jobs to support herself. She's been with us ever since (aside from a short stint at HMRC).
Fostering that relationship and giving her room to grow has resulted in us working with an extremely talented and intelligent person, who we're so lucky to have.