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Living the dream

I spent last Easter week in Paris with my wife Andrea celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary – that is three years less than I have been wedded to the financial services industry. While I can claim that my wife is beautiful, I am not sure the same is true of my career.

Perhaps it is the word “beautiful” I am struggling with in the context of work. Interesting, fun, stimul-ating and enjoyable, they all work for me. Frustrating, annoying even idiotic at times also all seem to work but beautiful? I am not sure about that.

Like with football, it has been a “career of two halves” the first half spent working for various insurance companies, what I now refer to as “product providers”, the second half more importantly working as an independent finan- cial adviser and doing the really interesting bit of meeting people and trying to help them.

It all started in my home city of Bristol working as an underwriting clerk (Phoenix Assurance) moving up the ladder first to junior underwriter and then to the dizzy heights for a 21-year-old, senior life underwriter. I still come across some of the people I worked with in those days. They don’t seem to have aged at all me on the other hand look completely knackered.

But if you are 21 and slightly ambitious, you want more than an “office job” so I moved away from Bristol to live in Birmingham and became a life inspector (you have to be old to remember those) latterly called broker consultants and these days account managers (first with Phoenix and then for a short while Scottish Equitable).

You have to remem- ber that this was all pre-Financial Services Act a different world really. In actual fact, I was not, on reflection, very good at that job. I never was much of a salesman but I learned an awful lot about people so the experience was good.

Then I moved back to the West Country although some may claim that Gloucester was the north of the West Country to become a pensions marketing specialist with a little unit-linked company called Trident Life. That was great fun and got me going on the technical track for many years.

Gloucester was followed by Croydon and another small unit-linked company called Merchant Investors and then North London and Wembley with another small player called Cannon Lincoln. Three small firms that all became mega-big players later on with disparate reputations and eventual consolidation back down, big is not always beautiful.

I got fed up of working as an employee fairly early on and at age 34 became self-employed and an IFA and here I am at 51 and I still am one. How many times have I heard in the last 17 years that IFAs will become extinct, it has not happened yet and I can’t see it happening anytime soon despite all that is thrown at us.

I came to qualifications late on in life as well but am proud of having AFPC qualifications and later this year a BA Hons Degree in financial services from Napier University Edinburgh, living your life round the wrong way can be fun. I also spent four years on the board of the Society of Financial Advisers the last two (literally as Sofa merged with LIA at the end of my office) as chairman and met some great people there.

But what is most fun about my career is that I now spend my working day with my family, all of them. Andrea is my business partner, as is Martin my son, who is on his way to becoming one of the new young breed of professional advisers, and Lindie my daughter-in-law, who this autumn turns me into a grandfather (but I’m too young) works in our administration.

My daughter Emma has the self-employed gene and runs her shop downstairs. Some people may not be able to work with their spouse and offspring but for me it’s a dream.
What would I do differently if I could start all over again? Not a lot but perhaps I would have come to an independent business life earlier but then I guess it poses the question would I have been ready for it? You know, on reflection, perhaps it is a beautiful career.


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