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Paul Johnston

Lives: Rochester, Kent.

Born: June 17, 1965, Chelmsford.

Age: 36

Education: Great Baddow High School.

Career to date: Management trainee with John Lewis, Next and Marks & Spencer until 1989; working in a recruitment consultancy between 1989 and 1991; joined Bupa as a consultant in 1991; joined Aon as a senior healthcare consultant in 1994; eventually became managing director of Aon Financial Services.

Career ambition: To take Momentum to the top.

Life ambition: “I would love to see the day when space travel is available to everyone.”

Likes: Success and spontaneity.

Dislikes: Queuing.

Peers say: “He is dynamic with a sense of vision.”

Car: Golf GTi – “a post-MBO car”.

Mud, rain and wind provide a dreary backdrop but Momentum Financial Services managing director Paul Johnston is still chirpy as he takes time out from an Outward Bound course to talk up his baby – “a truly national corporate advice service”.

By his own admission, this is not the type of thing he does regularly or willingly but, with a mind to team building, Johnston has left the comfort of his home in Kent to rough it in Wales with around 20 RIs from the Bristol and Plymouth branches. “These two days are all about bonding and team building but it seems we have to do that in the mud and rain.”

The 36-year-old will doubtless find himself battling the elements again in the not too distant future if he insists on bonding with the whole company. Momentum has 100 consultants and nine offices dotted around the UK and Johnston is keen to see it swell its ranks further.

“I want to see Momentum grow and I intend to take it as far as I possibly can.” He believes the way forward is professionalism and by that he means being at least AFPC-qualified.

“I have had a rather haphazard career path myself but I am passionate about qualifications and personal development. I aim to have 50 per cent of my consultants AFPC-qualified by the end of next year.” The figure is currently 30 per cent although Johnston himself does not fall into their ranks.

Unabashed by his own lack of professional qualifications, he says what he can bring to the industry is strategic skills with “no preconceived ideas” and the ability to challenge people to think outside the box. He is not shy about criticising what he believes is a scarcity of quality advisers operating in the market. “There are pockets of quality advisers but it is by no means across the board.” He believes one of the problems is that the industry is still seen as “fuddy-duddy and a bit conservative”.

Although a small voice in a big market, Johnston is being as vocal as he can on the subject. In Momentum&#39s response to the Sandler review, he calls for the Government to consider including issues of tax, investment and savings in the National Curriculum. “We do not get in enough young blood and the Government could have a role in addressing that problem.”

But until things change, Johnston is going to keep on doing his bit. He says: “We are a very small voice but that is why we focus on the professional development of our own staff. I want people to perceive Momentum as a professional, innovative and successful outfit.”

Johnston seems pleased with the results so far. He says Momentum&#39s first 15 months have been excellent. The company, formed last year through a management buyout of Aon Consulting Financial Services, easily hit its profit target of £1.1m and it has won over 20 new corporate accounts.

J ohnston says the impetus for the MBO came in January last year when Aon decided advice did not fit into its portfolio of services. “I had built up the advice arm in the UK and knew there was a gap in the market here for strong national corporate advice.”

At the time of launching last August, he says there were a few strong firms already operating in the market but, unlike some of them, Momentum will always retain its independent status. Although he admits the company looked at multi-tying as an option, he says it rejected the idea. Momentum is his baby and he is not about to have someone else rear it.

So what should we read into the name Momentum? Nothing, says Johnston. Despite extensive brainstorming sessions and help from a PR agency, Johnston says his PA came up with the name and he has no idea about the source of her inspiration.

Back in the Welsh mountains, Johnston appears undeterred by the lashing he is getting from the unrelenting British weather. Eventually, however, with his mobile phone clutched in his hand, he is forced to beat a retreat to a nearby car in order to be heard above the howling wind.

Cars and phones apparently figure heavily in his professional and private life. Monday to Friday see him with his ear glued to the phone “finding out what is going on in our business”.

But he is very clear about where work stops and the weekend starts. The father of three says his weekends are spent taxiing his children – two girls and a boy aged 10, nine and seven – between skating and football practice. “Saturday and Sunday are reserved for my kids, even though that tends to mean me being a taxi service.”

But on the occasions when he does manage to find some free time, you will find Johnston at Upton Park. “I&#39m afraid I am a West Ham fan. What can I say?” Otherwise, he is to be found helping out at the local football team where his son plays.

You cannot fault the man&#39s commitment either to his children or his job. Leaving him to the joys of a morning of archery in the wind and rain, just above the noise of the roaring wind, you can hear him remark that “it should be fun”.


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