This summer will be memorable for me for many reasons. The heatwave, the World Cup and, most importantly, the fact that I’m soon to become a married man will all fix this year firmly in my mind forever. But I was also delighted to pass another milestone this year, passing the initial training and compliance sign off to see clients on my own. This is an important step towards achieving my Competent Adviser Status (CAS), which I now hope to complete by the end of 2018.
After three years of working towards it, I now have everything I need to go out into the world of financial planning on my own, meet clients one-to-one without a mentor, and start to build my own client base. As part of my ongoing development, I will continue to work closely with my mentor, constantly looking to improve the practical application of my knowledge.
I’m proud to say I was the first person to go through the First Wealth Graduate Transition Programme, but before I come onto that let me tell you a bit about how I got here…
How it Started
It was when I studied Economics at A level that something first clicked about finance – it was the first time I can remember really enjoying and feeling passionate about a subject. After my A levels, I moved on to studying Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. However, I quickly realised that the world of business management wasn’t for me. A chat with a lecturer convinced me that I should give their new Financial Planning degree a try. As someone who likes dealing with people and who is interested in and passionate about finance, becoming a financial planner would allow me to combine both. I changed my degree and didn’t look back.
From Learner to Earner
After university, I took an internship with Handelsbanken in Manchester. It was a great place to start my working life as their ethos was built around a focus on people, specifically their clients, and how they lived their lives. After finishing my internship, I moved to one of their offices in London. It was a useful experience, but I soon found myself missing the personal side of the role I’d enjoyed with the internship, and the feeling that I was genuinely able to make a difference to people’s lives. The capacity to keep doing this was what excited me most, so I decided to make this the focus of my next move.
It was in the course of a conversation with a former lecturer that I heard about First Wealth. He introduced me to Anthony Villis, the Managing Partner and Founder, and said they were looking for graduates and that I should send him my CV. Anthony must have liked what he saw because I was invited in for an interview.
Anthony was energetic and passionate about the profession and he made an instant impression on me. He explained how he saw First Wealth as part of a new breed of advisers and financial planners who were focused on helping their clients plan and create their ideal lifestyles.
From Applicant to Adviser
I was delighted when I was accepted onto First Wealth’s Graduate Transition Programme. It was a whole new environment, but I’d never felt more at home. I started with the basics: doing all the admin tasks; sorting the post; making teas and coffees – that kind of stuff. Yes, they were relatively menial tasks, but they gave me a chance to get to grips with the business and get to know everyone.
I quickly progressed in the role until I was doing valuations, meeting and getting to know the clients, and learning about all the different financial solutions we offer. I was building up a solid foundation of knowledge which was growing every day. I was also studying for my exams at the same time, which First Wealth paid for and were flexible in giving me plenty of study leave to prepare for – something that many of my peers in the profession were very envious of! The Graduate Transition Programme has since become embedded in the business and two further graduates have joined the team via this route.
As well as increasing my theoretical and on-the-job knowledge, First Wealth are helping me develop as a professional. As my knowledge grew, they steadily gave me more and more responsibility which helped me increase in confidence and grow into the career role I had chosen.
Graduates on the Transition Programme are assigned a mentor; Robert Caplan (Partner and Co-founder of the firm) is mine as I continue to work towards achieving Competent Adviser Status. I work closely with him, attend client meetings alongside him and he continually provides considered and valuable feedback on what I am doing right and what I needed to work on.
The softer skills you learn from a mentor – like the first-hand experience of dealing with clients – are crucial, and they can’t be learnt from any textbook or exam. Every client is different and being able to listen, understand and adapt to what they want is vital in lifestyle planning and will be integral to your success in the role.
The mentorship is ongoing, helping me to learn and improve but also thinking about how I would like to go about things myself, how to develop my own style and approach to lifestyle planning. Now it’s liberating that I can put those thoughts into action and start building client relationships on my own terms. Being yourself and faithful to your own style is the best way to foster a trusting relationship with clients, and establishing trust is the most important part of being a financial planner.
Next Generation of Advisers
With the average age of financial advisers being around the 50-something mark, there is concern in our profession about where the advisers of tomorrow are going to come from. I am proud to be working for a firm which is actively nurturing this next generation.
But it’s not just about age, it’s about attitude and approach too. The more traditional form of financial advice was perhaps based around selling products and looking solely at return on investment. This is still a part of it, but the future of our profession is about focusing on our clients’ lifestyles and what matters most to them.
The financial planner adds value by creating a financial lifestyle plan to help people achieve their goals and dreams – hopefully changing their lives for the better. This is also an ethos that resonates with investors of my generation, where the focus is on what we want to achieve and contribute and the sort of lives we want to lead, rather than simply the financial sums we want to amass.
My Five Tips
For any students or graduates looking to follow the same career path as me, here are my five tips for becoming a financial lifestyle planner:
- Be patient – it’s not going to happen overnight
- Work hard – nothing worthwhile comes easily
- Choose the right firm and the right environment for you
- Know your strengths, and play to them
- Be yourself – don’t feel like you have to live up to stereotypes
As a final word, I can truly say this is a great career to have. My next steps are to enjoy building my client base and to continue learning and increasing my knowledge of my chosen profession. And, who knows, maybe one day I’ll be interviewing and recruiting the next generation of financial lifestyle planners myself.
If you would like more information about the First Wealth Graduate Transition Programme, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.