It’s the time of year when a lot of young people are embarking on their next step towards a successful career so we thought it worth sharing the story of my path to becoming Managing Director of a multi-award winning firm of Chartered Financial Planners that were last year voted the best in the UK.
Many of my colleagues at Informed Financial Planning are successful products of our Graduate Training Scheme, whereby they have studied for A Levels, gone to University and obtained a good Degree before beginning their professional training with us straight after University. My journey to Managing Director of the company is somewhat different.
From an early age my mother and my teachers were encouraging me to do A Levels and go to University so for most of my school life I assumed that was what would happen. However, during the final year of school I decided that the route that had been planned for me was not one that I wanted to take. I couldn’t wait to enter the world of work, earn some money and start making my way in life. I was also concerned that going to University would put a financial strain on my parents that they couldn’t afford. At the age of fifteen, I decided to send a speculative letter to a small firm of Chartered Accountants in Hull to see if they were looking to recruit any school leavers. Amazingly, for the first time in decades, they were!
I attended an interview one Saturday morning with Mr Glew of Glew Dunn & Co who wrote to me a few days later offering me a job as an office junior starting later that year. I remember being amazed at getting a job and beginning my career after one letter and one interview at a time (this was 1978) when jobs were particularly hard to come by. The money would have to come later, he offered me 50p an hour which even in 1978 was derisory but it was a start.
After a few months gaining experience in the office, I decided I wanted to work towards a professional qualification and started a three year course at Hull College which meant two evenings per week were spent at college with many more hours spent completing assignments in my own time. This led to membership of what became The Association of Accounting Technicians. At the age of twenty, I had letters behind my name, which, from my background was unusual at any age.
Starting a Business
I knew from an early age that the only way I would get what I wanted from life was if I started my own business. Therefore, at the age of twenty-five, I handed in my notice with a view to starting my own small accountancy practice. I had enough money to pay my mortgage for a month and enough work lined up to occupy me for the first few weeks. The help I received from my best client was absolutely invaluable, and I offered a range of services to him and others that the traditional accountants were reluctant to provide.
The practice steadily expanded to five staff with city centre offices to become one of the most respected small practices in the area. However, I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t grow the practice to where I wanted it to be (largely because I wasn’t Chartered – I put that right later!) and decided to sell the business to another small local firm after eight successful years. The experience gained during these years proved to be vital later in my career.
The next step was a couple of years as a Director and shareholder in a successful health and fitness business, the highlight of which was us sponsoring the famous Hull Kingston Rovers at Wembley in the 1997 Plate Final. An opportunity arose for me to sell my shares which suited me because I had already decided to study towards becoming a financial adviser.
Moving Into Financial Advice
My career as a financial adviser started with me working from home on a self-employed basis for a couple of years while I got to know the business better and to obtain more qualifications in addition to the minimum required to be an authorised financial adviser.
My next move was my only experience of working in a big organisation (albeit on a self-employed basis). I learnt a lot from my time there, mostly that working in a big organisation was not for me!
I had thought for a long time that the way most financial advisers worked at the time could be improved and decided to set up Informed Financial Planning (IFP). The aim was for the business to be run and be seen as a professional practice in the same way as a firm of accountants and solicitors would be.
The IFP story started in October 2004 (you can check out our history timeline here) and we are busy organising a big celebration of our fifteenth birthday. Learning from previous mistakes in my career in not being Chartered as an accountant, I became one of the first Chartered Financial Planners in the UK and Informed Financial Planning became one of the first firms of Chartered Financial Planners in the country and the first in Yorkshire.
The journey has been a long and sometimes tough one but today I am Managing Director of a successful company with a great culture that employs thirty-two people, many of them products of our apprenticeship and graduate training schemes, based in fabulous offices that we own overlooking the Humber Estuary. IFP is widely recognised as being a leader in it’s field, evidenced by the numerous awards we have won including “The Best Financial Adviser To Work For” in three consecutive years.
What It Takes
My tips to any ambitious young person would be:
- Identify what you are good at and enjoy doing
- Strive to be the best at what you do
- Look for opportunities
- Work hard
- You don’t necessarily have to go to University
- Recognise that you need the help of other people
- Do the right thing – always!
Good luck to all of you embarking on your journey, I hope you get the rewards you deserve in your own career.