After various diversions via the priesthood, catering and then management, IFA Francis Klonowski has finally found his vocation – financial services.
Independent from the very start, at the age of 11, he made the decision to leave his Sheffield home and attend the Catholic Seminary at Upshaw college in Durham to begin training as a priest. He describes a sheltered, monastic life at the school where pupils were left with their studies and accompanied even on trips into the local town.
Following his theology degree, Klonowski decided a career in the church was not for him. After a brief flirtation with broadcast journalism, he remained in the weddings, christenings and funerals area, ending up as a catering manager at a stately home near Leeds.
But the late nights working in catering proved too much and he eventually opted for a quieter life. After a two year spell at Legal & General, he moved to a small IFA firm in Leeds and had set up on his own by 1996.
The industry has been singing his praises ever since giving him more than 10 awards for his work as an IFA, including Personal Financial Planner of the year by Money Management.
He describes winning these accolades as the main contributory factor towards ongoing success as an IFA and devotes a large amount of time to applying for them. He says: “People certainly take notice and I don't take the prizes for granted at all. You really have to prove yourself to even be in with a shot of winning these things and then make sure you are living up to that reputation.”
Klonowski is one of a new breed of “bedroom” IFAs, running their businesses from home and over the net.
He made the switch because he says: “I did not have the time to do all that clients were demanding and I realised I was doing a lot of extra work that was never going to be rewarded. In the long run, I could see there was a good future in setting up on my own and I preferred working that way.”
He works from an office over his garage at home in Leeds and is specialises in areas such as investment, estate and pre-tax planning as well as offering a service for expatriates.
Klonowski has retained his pastoral role and says: “I wanted to look after people. When they discuss their financial affairs, they really are putting themselves into your hands and trusting you and I wanted to be able to help them.”
Apart from a “first-class education” he says one of the many qualities his unusually restrictive upbringing gave him was self-discipline, which he believes is essential to establish yourself as a successful one-man band operation.
He has his work cut out shepherding his 120 clients and no longer knows how many hours he is working but insists he is still enjoying it and is not yet stretched to capacity.
Klonowski operates his financial confessional from home on a more or less 24-hour basis so unfortunately he has callers ringing in day and night.
Flexi-time allows Klonowski to offer a different type of service for clients wanting to contact him at the weekend or out of office hours and listening to all the financial sins of his clients has become common practice.
He says: “Sadly I don't have any bishops or priests on my books yet.”
An elastic timetable allows him to work around conferences and indulge another of his favourite diversions – music. Although not catering for the “god is a DJ” generation, preferring lesser known acoustic artists, the financial services convert hosts an album show every Friday evening on hospital radio and regular slots on BBC Radio Leeds.
As far as his business is concerned, Klonowski prefers working on a fee basis and sees it as the honest option, with less selling and more service.
He believes there is a huge difference between clients wanting commission-based advice and those willing to work with him on a flat fees basis. He says: “Although I have some older clients who still prefer to work on the old commission system, the majority have been happy to move over to feebased advice.”
Klonowski says: “I often deal with people who are just about to retire. These people are often particularly clued up about what they want and highly computer-literate.”
Through his role as a regional co-ordinator for the Institute of Financial Planning, he has become a director for the Fee-Based Foundation.
This involves training IFAs to practice what Klonowski preaches and shift over from commission-paid work. But he firmly believes this is not the best route for everyone. He says: “I think fee-based advisers will always be in the minority – as niche players. Many IFAs want to remain as they are and forcing them to convert will be really difficult and unproductive.”
He is clearly a man still tempted away from financial services by catering every once in a while, though. On a recent pilgrimage back to St Chad's college in Durham for a university reunion, he bumped into Campbell Edgar, vice-president of the Institute of Financial Planning, over a sausage roll.
Lives: Leeds with his Polish wife and teenage daughter
Born: Sheffield in 1951
Education: Went to Catholic Seminary at Upshaw college in Durham at age 11, Theology degree from St Chads, Durham University.
Career to date: Consultant with Legal & General (1988-1991). In April 1991, he became an IFA with BLM Christopher Lee in Leeds before setting up his own fee-based financial practice on 1st February 1996 as a member of The Burns-Anderson network.
Career ambition: To see Klonowski & Co reach 150 fee-based financial planning clients.
Life ambition: To visit California and meet singer Jackson Browne.
Likes: Satirical comedy, country walks, appreciative comments from clients.
Dislikes: Mindless vandalism, inconsiderate parking, most local commercial radio; retrospective regulation and reviews.
Peers say: “He's an absolutely super chap, very enthusiastic and genuine. We're training our IFAs to be a whole new set of Francis's.”
Car: Rover 45 1.8 engine