I Used To Dream About Being a Farmer, How Did I Discover Financial Planning?

By: Darren Pike
Financial Planner
Clear Cut Financial Planning

Throughout school, I was never considered ‘academic’ and quiet honestly had no serious career plan since I was around 10 years old and wanted to be a farmer, simply because I liked wellingtons, mud and Animals!  I finished school and took a job in retail, before deciding to go to college.

I surprised myself and went on to university and in 2013 graduated in Business Management. Although, some things didn’t change, as I was one of many who departed University without a serious ‘what’s next plan’. I turned back to retail with a role at Argos. As exciting as it was to find out what was behind the big conveyor belt, I knew I wanted something more, given what I now knew about my options following university.

Chester University was running a work placement scheme, Jane Gow (director at Clear Cut) was going out alone and setting up her own Financial Planning Business and through Chester University took me on as a graduate placement. I set her up on social media and did some initial marketing and some administration to help her get started.

I then spoke to Jane about her career and how I could get started in Financial Planning; Jane worked at one of the large banks as a mortgage adviser and progressed to financial planner and I thought ‘can I do that?’.

I remember at the very start of my role,Jane told me to read a book; Who Moved my Cheese (Dr Spencer Johnson). Cheese being a metaphor for what you want in life and where you look for what you want, the problem is, that the cheese keeps moving and it helps you understand how to react with unexpected changes through different characters. This has stuck with me ever since.

Jane took me on full time, to run the mortgage desk, I took my mortgage qualifications and started to build up a client bank as well as some professional connections and some pro bono work for clients going through divorce.

This was a big change to what I thought I would be doing post university having specialised in business marketing. I’ve always liked comfort and always stuck to what I felt I was good at, so coming into a profession revolved around numbers was scary considering I got an E in Maths, (don’t worry I since went back to improve on this!)

Where am I now?

By 2019 I went on to win the prestigious PFS Award for Mortgage & Protection Adviser of the year, which to date is one of the proudest moments in my career. Seven odd years ago I wouldn’t say boo to a goose and if a client came through the door, I’d be hiding under the table embarrassed by the lack of knowledge I had and scared they would ask me difficult questions. Never in a million years did I think I would be walking on stage at one of the biggest award ceremonies in our industry and collecting an award from the PFS President!

Since then, I have integrated into a fully authorised Financial Planner role with one exam away from being Chartered and even Shortlisted in the NMA top 35 Next Gen advisers under 35 in 2020.

Why am I enjoying it?

For me, school was tough! If you told me then that I would be dedicating to a life-long career of learning and pursuit of qualifications, I would have run a mile. But this is the thing about the profession, you do exams because you want to widen your knowledge, you want to make things better for yourself and be the best adviser you can for your clients. You will never stop learning; it’s a profession that keeps you on your toes; you watch the budget like a world cup draw – exams and CPD are key to keep up with the revolving rules and regulations and in all honesty, if you are a NextGen financial planning geek like me, it keeps it exciting!

It is a career you can find your own niche in and advise in an area you have a passion for, which ultimately stops the job feeling like a job as you generally enjoy it! I have always been a huge advocate of mental health support, as a financial planner, I have found a way to do this with my clients and supporting them in making financial decisions in some very difficult and vulnerable situations. Yes, we are there to advise and make recommendations, but we are also there to listen and understand the clients’ real motivations that contribute to their objectives; this is why I enjoy it, you are making a genuine difference on someone’s life.

Recruitment, training, getting started in Financial Planning

I came into financial planning with no financial experience and very limited technical knowledge. For me personally, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time now working in a company with the right people who took that leap of faith in me.

Clear Cut Chartered Financial Planners has six advisers and eight back-office staff and Paraplanners and recently made the New Model Adviser top 100 firms list.

I was the first graduate over seven years ago working with Jane and one other administrator at the time. Every year since then, Clear Cut has taken on a new graduate in a Paraplanning position helping them work through their CII exams towards their Diploma’s.

I interview the graduates with Jane We know it’s often a case of finding the right person with the passion to learn and not just their qualifications & experience for a graduate role.

Last year, the five people we put in our final interview stage were brilliant; we ended up taking on two of them. One was a school leaver (not having actually gone university) who was working at an Accountancy firm whilst the other worked for an energy ombudsman and took it upon themselves to sit some of the CII exams prior to applying for a job in financial services.

My Tips

  • Find the right firm for you, do not be shy to ask about the development and succession and long-term goals for the business.
    • Internally, Clear Cut take succession seriously with our younger advisers and investing into the future financial planners and intergenerational planning for both the Business Legacy and the best interest of our clients. We want to be asked questions on this! You deserve to feel part of something.
    • Small or Big Firm? Obviously, this depends on you. Clear Cut being a smaller firm allowed me a greater level of freedom to express my ideas and become the adviser I wanted to be
  • Take advantage of everyone around you. If you are at a firm now and don’t feel the progression you wish you would have had; it’s likley they haven’t forgotten about you, but maybe haven’t thought about succession yet. Suggest a new method to help them and your development;
    • Ask if you could sit in client meetings and take notes for advisers? It helps the adviser concentrate on the clients and for you to gain experience in face-to-face meetings.
  • Meet the right people;
    • Talk to similar likeminded people; NextGen was brilliant for me and really kick started my passion
    • Attend industry events and other professional events; put yourself on the map
    • Arrange meetings with Business Development Managers at your firm, build your connections
    • Contact firms on LinkedIn, let people know you are being active in looking for opportunities.

Why is it such an amazing profession to be a part of?

We all know of the historical and dated stigma on financial services, that so many have worked hard over the years to change. Looking forward, I see Financial Planning as one of few professions out there, that a newcomer including myself can help shift and mold the entire profession you work in for the future.

Very cliché to say, but I have fallen in love with a profession I knew nothing about and really found a passion in something I never knew existed. Trailing through Mud with my Wellingtons on going to feed the Cows now seems a dream from a past life …


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