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Richard cohen

The NSure IFA has, at the tender age of 22, already made a significant impact on the industry and the self-confessed computer nerd now wants to shake people out of their IT malaise and embrace technology, says James Salmon

Twenty-two-year-old Richard Cohen of Nsure could well be described as the Michael Owen of the IFA sector after recently becoming the youngest- ever Personal Finance Society associate.

The self-confessed computer nerd, budding Tory and avid Brighton & Hove Albion fan is something of a prodigy in IFA terms.

When Cohen passed the six Advanced Financial Planning Certificate subjects needed to achieve associate status of the PFS, he joined a select group of 1,092 advisers, with an average age of 41, who have achieved this level.

He says the main reason he opted to pursue advanced qualifications so early in his career was initially to overcome the challenges posed by being a young man in an a predominantly middle-aged profession.

Cohen admits that, when he started as an 18-year-old IFA, older clients had difficulty accepting advice from someone less than half their age and preferred to deal with more senior colleagues.

“At first I was only allowed to deal with the younger clients. I needed to show clients I know what I am doing and gain the background knowledge to gain their respect.”

This policy certainly seems to have paid off as Cohen, armed with an impressive array of certificates on his office wall, now deals with clients of all age groups.

His clients have little reason to doubt his experience or commitment to his job. He started working part-time for his father at Nsure when he finished school at 16. “I did fairly menial stuff like photocopying and making the tea. Then I progressed to data inputting – if that is a progression.”

Cohen continued to work for Nsure while taking A levels at college, putting paper files on to the firm’s IT system and running quotes with specific instructions. He assumed a paraplanning role after leaving college and became an IFA at 18 after passing his FPC exams.

Where does this drive to be an IFA come from? Cohen insists he did not automatically follow his father into the profession but weighed it up against other careers in the financial sector, including banking. “I just like working with people, I like technology and I like working with figures. I did look at other jobs such as banking but being an IFA appeals more as you have more direct contact with clients and have the chance to improve their quality of life.”

Dealing with people clearly makes Cohen tick but he has been in the industry long enough to be wary of some of its shortcomings. “The worst thing is definitely the paperwork and the negative image the industry has because of all the scandals. We need to overcome this by educating clients, doing a good job for people and showing them that we are not all sharks.”

Cohen, who looks after Nsure’s IT systems, also believes IFAs are slow to latch on to technology and says computer illiteracy is being rife within the sector. He puts this down primarily to the age of most advisers and their reluctance to change the way they work.

Cohen says IFAs need to embrace IT, providing improved online functionality for customers, and transfer more data electronically. He says: “There are a few people in the office I think I have managed to convert but a few others are not having any of it.”

Like many of his older counterparts in the industry, Cohen is not short of a few words on the FSA. He describes the regulator as a necessary evil but says on the whole it is doing a good job despite niggles such as the payment menu. “The menu has not added anything. It was a lot of work to set up but I cannot see it benefiting clients as most of them do not seem to care,” he says.

What does Cohen do when he is not expounding the virtues of IT to his colleagues, advising clients or revising for his exams? Apart from being a season ticket holder at his beloved Brighton & Hove Albion, Cohen is also a budding Tory politician and hopes to one day run for his constituency of Worthing West.

Cohen adheres to the Tory maxim of allowing people to help themselves and is adamant that Ken Clarke, not “youngsters” such as David Cameron or David Davis, will be the man to lift the party out of the political doldrums. “He is the biggest personality and is a face the public recognise. Unfortunately, these days, this is as important as the actual politics.”

Before he entertains the idea of a political career, Cohen has plenty of unfinished business as an IFA. He says he cannot envisage a change of direction in the foreseeable future and plans to work his way up at Nsure and buy his father out when he retires. He is also busy studying for his ACII exams and is only three exams away from becoming a fellow of the PFS.

Born: January 16, 1983, Brighton

Lives: Worthing

Education: A levels in maths, physics and politics, FPC, APFS (including Maq, K10, G10, G20, G30, G70, H15, CITIP) and the Certificate in Insurance

Career: 1999 to date: Nsure Financial Services

Life ambition: Retire and spend my life on holiday

Hero: Mickey Adams (former Brighton manager)

Likes: Tennis, badminton, watching Brighton & Hove Albion, watching films

Dislikes: Procrastinating politicians

Car: Renault Clio

Favourite author: Douglas Adams

Favourite film: Star Wars Return of The Jedi

Favourite album: Hot Fuss by The Killers


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