14/06/18Reflecting on my second year in business

Reflecting on my second year in business

Following more than 20 years spent in a career in banking, it was time for a change.

I knew I wanted to provide a more rounded and complete level of service to my clients, with advice which could make a meaningful difference to their lives. Feeling the bank wasn’t the best place to do this, I became self-employed.

Working under the umbrella of another company, within a few short months came the news that, following an acrimonious separation, I was now surplus to their requirements.

It shattered my confidence and left me facing a major decision; should I take the relatively easy option of returning to employment, or find another company to work with on a self-employed basis?

I knew that self-employment with another firm left me open to the risk of another similar experience, so I picked a third option. With a restrictive covenant now in place from two different companies, no clients to bring with me, no income and no experience of running my own business, the choice was not the obvious one.

I established my own business, ISJ Independent Financial Planning Limited.

The ISJ part is named after my three children, taking the long-term view they might (perhaps) one day like to join me in the business. One is now at University studying Pharmacy, another has no interest in numbers, and the other is only five years old, and wants to become a professional footballer. A second generation family business is looking unlikely at this stage!

It’s been a couple of years since I started the business and it’s been a tough journey since, building a firm with a strong base of clients and sufficient income to pay the bills, including the regulatory expenses faced by all financial planners.

My timing could have been better. ISJ was formed on 1st June 2016, with the Brexit referendum taking place later that month. It wasn’t the best time to start a business as a financial planner. In fact, my first client invested £100,000 on 10th June and quickly wanted to sell it all on 26th June, as the stock markets wobbled as investors digested the UK’s split from the EU.

I’m pleased to report he stayed invested and remains a client, extremely pleased with his investment decisions and our service.

Proud of achievements

Without question I am extremely proud of my achievements to date. It’s not easy to blow your own trumpet, but it’s important to reflect from time-to-time on how far you have come. A business birthday seems the right time to do this.

There are far fewer financial advisers in the UK today compared to only a few years earlier. Higher professional standards, introduced at the end of 2012, is one factor behind an exodus of advisers, down to its current level of around 22,000 today.

To put it bluntly, financial advice is an ageing and male dominated profession. I’m often told that the typical adviser is 55 years old, male and white. Fewer than 20% of my peers are female and only 3% come from an ethnic minority. It’s fair to say I’m doing my very best to break the mold!

I’m not your stereotypical financial adviser. In fact, I’m passionate about encouraging more women into the profession and, to this end, I’m working with local schools to encourage the girls there to consider financial planning as a career option.

I work with clients to empower them to make important decisions in order to live their best life.

My father died when he was 55 years old. He went to work one day and never came home. My dad always said “when I retire..”, but like many he never did get to retire. This is why I’m such a firm believer in living life when you have health and wealth on your side.

Answering the big questions

I often get asked the big questions, such as ‘When can I afford to retire?’ or ‘When can I go on that special holiday?’. Answering questions like these are so important to my clients. I help them find the answers using lifestyle financial planning and cash flow forecasting.

Most people don’t want to outlive their money. But most don’t want to die rich either. Balancing those two extreme outcomes is where I help my clients. I help them understand how much money is ‘enough’. That really is the million dollar question.

I was recently introduced to a client with a significant, seven-figure bank balance. They had already experienced meetings with two other financial advisers, resulting in two different proposals. Against this competition, I knew that my fees were unlikely to be the lowest.

When they chose me as their financial planner, I asked them what helped to make up their minds. They replied, “you were interested in us, not our money.” This is why I enjoy what I do.

I take pride in going the extra mile, with both my initial advice but also as the client relationship develops. I want to be the person in their lives who they know, like and trust. This is important.

A time for reflection

Reflecting on the past twelve months, it’s been a busy time for my business.

I’ve completed the four exams needed to become a Chartered Financial Planner.

I’ve been chosen as a finalist in the Leicester Mercury Women in Business Awards for Best New Business, one of only three finalists in this category.

I’ve been chosen as a semi-finalist in the Niche Magazine Awards, again for Best New Business.

I’ve been nominated for the Professional Adviser Women in Financial Advice Awards 2018.

I’ve been asked to speak at the Money Marketing Interactive conference in September, talking about diversity.

I’ve appeared as a panel member along with Rosemary Connelly, discussing women in business.

I’ve been asked by several journalists to provide regular commentary in magazines and newspapers, including recently in The Independent commenting on financial advice.

24 months since starting ISJ Independent Financial Planning, I’m as confident in my decision as I was on day one. It’s been another incredible year for my business as I continue on this journey to work with clients to empower them to make important decisions in order to live their best life.

Reflecting on another year in business, as we celebrate our second birthday Click To Tweet

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