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School of learning

I was supposed to go to university when I left school but I struggled to see the point. I was 19 and I did not think that I was mature enough to understand what I was doing and I know what would have happened if I had gone.

Instead, my financial services career – which has spanned nearly 20 years to date – was triggered by my old music teacher.

I happened to bump into her one day and she told me that her son, who worked for the Prudential, had been promoted. That left his agency job up for grabs and she thought I would be good at it because I spent more time talking rather than learning as a pupil.

Before I knew it, I was working as a district agent for the Pru in my home-land of Northern Ireland. It was the old-fashioned bicycle clips around the ankles type of job, except that we had cars instead of bicycles. I went from door to door, collection book in hand, collecting premiums and making appointments for the life inspector and general branch inspector. It was brilliant. In my first year, I earned over £23,000 instead of attending university. I think my strength was that I got on with everybody. I do try and listen and I can empathise with people and get on with them.

After doing well as a district agent, the Pru encouraged me to become an in-house training consultant in London, which I did in 1991. I stayed there for nearly a year and a half before returning to Northern Ireland to take my training skills on the road, helping to embed the training in the field.

I was also like a peace mediator, mediating peace between the sales-people and head office as they implemented their change program to a direct salesforce, called Scenario 3.

I stayed at the Pru, working my way up the ranks until the new millennium and at the age of 31 saw me enter the role of looking after Northern Ireland as area manager.

But in September 2001, the Pru closed its direct salesforce and I, along with a couple of Pru colleagues, joined Inter-Alliance, where I became a regional manager. I stayed with Inter-Alliance for a year, becoming a fully qualified IFA during that time.

But when Inter-Alliance started to restructure, I decided to resign and move on.

At that point, Positive Solutions was one of the few companies around that were willing to readily show me their accounts and furthermore they were profitable. I had an interview with them and decided that was the future.

At that stage, PosSol did not have an operation in Northern Ireland. But myself as recruiter and three IFAs started out here in 2002. Now we are a 65-strong team turning over between £350,000 and £400,000 each month.

While I started out in recruitment for PosSol with the title of business consultant, last year, I was promoted to become an assistant director for the firm heading recruitment across the UK.

I do everything in this role. I solve problems, I make problems although I try to solve more problems than I make. I recruit the recruiters if I can find good ones and I motivate the IFAs to find people for us to interview. I have stayed in financial services because every day is different.

The way I am, if the thing does not naturally change, I will change it anyway. A change is as good as a rest. I cannot do the same old thing every day. I also believe in what I am doing. I believe passionately that there is no better place for someone to be an adviser than here for what they get for their money.

The whole philosophy is for advisers to concentrate on clients and give those clients a better service based on the use of technology. The other thing is putting your money where your mouth is. If I was not going to be doing this role tomorrow morning, would I be an adviser for Pos Sol? Absolutely.


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