Returning to the office recently to sign off on some paperwork a few weeks after retiring, I was met with the inevitable question from our finance director, who is himself set to retire in a few years: “So, how is retirement?”
I have to say, I prefer the term ‘stepping aside’, though whatever you call it, it hasn’t been easy. At the same time, I’ve also stepped down as a non-executive director at Nucleus, ahead of the recent listing on AIM.
Having had some time to reflect, it’s worth examining why I decided to retire at the age of 58 from what I wholeheartedly believe to be one of the best jobs in financial services.
The Fry Group is a global IFA business with offices in the UK, Europe and Asia, with 160 staff, assets under advice of £1.6bn and a history dating back to 1898.
I joined the firm as an adviser 24 years ago, became a director in 2002 and the managing director in 2008.
My initial response to the question “Why retire now?” would in all honesty be: “I don’t really know.” But perhaps the best place to start would be why I took on the job to head up an advice firm in the first place.
To lead any larger firm is both a privilege and a responsibility, and this also speaks to a sense of duty. I must admit to being a bit daunted by the prospect at first. It’s a huge responsibility to look after both clients and staff equally well, and it’s one that can weigh heavily at times, as I’m sure many adviser owners can attest to.
There are also benefits to being at the forefront of things. We all have opinions, and I guess that’s what clients are paying advisers to express. Some of us (including myself) are very forthcoming with our opinions, are happy to share them and occasionally enforce them where necessary.
The financial rewards that came with greater responsibility were also welcome. On that point, I am not an apologist for reward in financial services. If we as advisers offer a service which is in high demand from clients and which adds value, being paid well seems to be a good thing. Not only that, fair remuneration will attract and retain talent in the profession.
But getting back to the issue at hand. Why retire, and why retire now? Over time, I began to realise that the job was done, at least from my perspective. Steering a larger firm out of the ashes of the financial crisis involved some interesting moments, but we did it and I’m proud to say the business stands today in great shape.
Much of the credit for that goes to the team, who have proved themselves more than capable of taking the business on from here. It’s great to see the next generation of bright, diligent and driven individuals who share that innate sense of responsibility to clients and each other. Ultimately, I realised I’d come to the point where stepping down just felt right.
I’m reminded of the Nucleus annual conference earlier this year, where Brett Davidson issued a challenge to those who have achieved the goals they first set themselves. He suggested now is the time to “go again” by setting new goals.
As for what’s next for me? One thing’s for sure – gardening and DIY won’t be featuring that much. What I am sure about is that financial services is in my blood. Hopefully for my next act I can find something where I can continue to add value in some way.