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Occupational therapy

Jo Charlton talks to five people in the industry in their twenties and discovers what motivates them, their feelings about drawbacks and advantages of the industry and their plans for the future.

Driven by money in the loan arena
A finance degree landed Alex Galbraith a job as an investment manager’s assistant although he left fairly quickly due to the lack of prospects. “I felt as if I had a glass ceiling above my head,” he explains.

Galbraith joined the mortgage world, attracted by its high commission structure. Indeed, for Galbraith, the best aspect of this particular career is the ability to earn lots of money, which he feels is some compensation for the 12-hour days and often difficult clients, referring to those who choose to shop around.

He says: “I will get them the best deal but if they are asking other advisers to do the same, they are wasting my time.”

The next obvious stage in his career would be to become sales manager but Galbraith is not considering this yet. For now, he intends to continue in his current position and focus on earning money.

In his opinion, this is not a difficult arena to break. He says: “It is very much based around personal as opposed to professional qualities. You are in charge of your own destiny depending on how hard you want to work.”

Galbraith stresses the importance of good communication and interpersonal skills.

“It is essential that you are able to give the client confidence within yourself,” he says.

Work and clients take centre stage
If she had not been a financial adviser, Gemma Poole’s career plan was to be an actress. But today, she is a successful independent financial adviser and client manager. Day to day responsibilities include writing reports, meeting clients and managing her team.

Poole is studying for the Advanced Financial Planning Certificate which takes centre stage for her ambitions in the next five years.

She landed her first job at Bristol & West partly due to the glut of financial jobs in her hometown of Bristol.

She worked there for six to eight months before moving on to NatWest, where she worked in corporate pensions. It was here that she made the decision to become a adviser.

Poole says the biggest perk is meeting with representatives, IFAs and other professionals from various backgrounds but the long hours are a drawback.

She says: “While doing your exams, you still have to work full-time so it is a case of making yourself revise in the evenings rather than sitting in front of the television.”

For anyone looking to join the industry, Poole’s advice is to study hard to develop an understanding of client situations.

She says: “You must be conscientious, personable, able to interact and, most importantly, enjoy meeting new people.”

Experience and good eye for detail will bring rewards
Meera Patel isa senior analyst for Hargreaves Lansdown and has been with the company for the past six-and-a-half years. After leaving university, Patel realised that finance was her forte and experimented with several areas before finding her niche as an analyst.

Patel’s passion is evident. “A lot of people have lost money over the last five years so that has helped me to be more diligent about making recommendations.”

She finds the job very rewarding and gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing good results materialise out of her advice. “It is sometimes necessary to advise on investing in a risky fund, which can be nerve-racking, but when it works out, you are glad you did.”

Patel believes anyone can follow in her footsteps if they put their mind to it. “You do not have to be the best – you just need the passion to want more.” She says high levels of numeracy are not necessary, but a good eye for detail is.

Her advice is to gain as much experience as possible and to get to know the fund managers. She emphasises it will not happen overnight but will come with time.

She says: “This career is not a science, it is an art and not every decision will be right although when you do get it right the rewards are great.”

Making advances on HNWs
Richard Brand currently operates in a sales support role while comp-leting his exams to become an IFA. For the past two years, he has prepared meetings, researched applications and planned presentations for IFAs.

After graduating in 2001, Brand followed his passion for finance and started his career with Canada Life. As his interest in investments grew, he decided to become an adviser. But despite being qualified to advise, Brand’s many high-net-worth clients demanded a higher level of expertise. As such, he is now studying for the advanced FPC.

Brand finds his job interesting and constantly evolving, with a multitude of benefits, namely, a good social network. He says: “It is certainly an inter-esting job for someone with a nosy persona as clients are often forth-coming in giving you their life history.”

But there are draw- backs. He notes that a high volume of clients expecting a very personal service can often be very challenging.

Brand’s opinion is that the industry as a whole is not very accessible. “It is built around very small practices with very few big players offering graduate placements,” he says.

Flexibility is the vital factor
The cousin of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location presenter Kirsty Allsopp has taken a very different route to property finding but still has his fair share of media coverage.

Allsopp did work experience for fund managers from the age of 18 in order to fulfil his ambition to work in finance. After obtaining his degree, he felt the best way to learn was to be immersed in the world of equities.

His career started at New Star. He followed on from this with an Investment Management Certificate and further equity evaluation courses.

Allsopp reckons that the most difficult aspect of his role is getting through all the research.

He agrees with Brand that flexibility is vital in this business. He says: “You must be able to absorb lots of information and be prepared to be wrong.”

Allsopp does not consider that his journey was easy and says that at times it was hard work but he strongly believes he is being exposed to a fascinating industry.

He says: “It is a dynamic industry and you get to know a lot of interesting companies with some intelligent management teams.”

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