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Anna Lawrence, Chartered Financial Planner at Prosser Knowles Associates Limited, met with Kay Crooke to reflect upon her time working in the financial services industry so far…
You started working with Prosser Knowles back in December 2016, what led you to work in the Financial Services Industry and for Prosser Knowles in particular?
It was pure chance, I started as a temp working for a Life Assurance Company in their Pension Administration Department whilst waiting to attend an interview to join the RAF. At my interview, the RAF advised they felt I was a little young to leave home and suggested I re-apply in 12 months. The Manager of the Pensions Department heard about this and offered me a permanent position and that was that.
I have worked for large institutions and very small advisory companies and there is good and bad about both. I was keen to work for a company that was big enough to have good resources and influence but small enough to treat clients as individuals offering bespoke solutions rather than a one fits all corporate solution. Prosser Knowles was my answer and I have not been disappointed.
You must have seen numerous changes over the years, could you tell us a bit about them?
Goodness where to begin. I have lived through high and low interest rates and inflation. I have seen changes to the State retirement age. I remember Tessa’s, PEP’s, mini and maxi ISA’s, Cash ISA’s, Equity ISA’s and so on. Having just got to grips with Capital Transfer Tax, it was replaced by Inheritance Tax. However, for me probably the most significant and greatest change has been around product development and charges. At last we have really good flexible products that can evolve with clients as their lives and needs change. Product charges have come down and are now competitive. Commission has disappeared in most cases and Advisers now agree fees with their clients. At last I feel we are positioned to provide a professional, good quality and lifelong service to individuals and companies.
You’re a Chartered Financial Adviser, one of the highest accreditations in the industry – could you explain what this involves and what it was like achieving it?
When I first started working in Financial Services there were no rules on qualifications, you could literally attend a two day sales course and then be out advising people on pensions and investments. Financial Advisers were looked on in the same way as second-hand car and double-glazing salesmen and for this reason I initially shied away from an advisory role. I worked in the administration and technical areas of pensions and investments and realised there were so many aspects to consider when offering advice. I started studying and after 9 exams became an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute. I went on to take further exams specifically for Advisers and then the Chartered Insurance Institute announced that they were introducing a Chartered qualification. I have always been passionate about increasing the professionalism of our industry and I wanted to demonstrate to clients that I was serious and knowledgeable. Becoming Chartered therefore was a must for me and I am proud to say that I was one of the first ever Chartered Advisers. In 2016 just before joining Prosser Knowles I took one further exam which now means I am also a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Helping clients achieve their objectives, putting plans in place and seeing these through to fruition. I have clients I have been working with for over 20 years now and I have seen them move from a working life to a happy and financially secure retirement. I have helped family’s with Inheritance Tax Planning and get a real sense of achievement when our plans work and families are saved thousands of pounds. However, the most rewarding thing of all is the relationship I have built with many clients, when I arrive for a meeting and it feels more life visiting an old friend than work.
Who has inspired you?
My father. He is an extremely bright man. He installed in me a real sense of right and wrong and always urged me to aim high. He was a stickler for good manners and was reasonably strict but always encouraged me. He has this ability to just look at you and you instantly behave; it even works with me now!
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in financial services?
Being a Financial Adviser is not about being good with figures or calculations, it is about working with and caring about people. If you enjoy helping people, you will enjoy working in Financial Services.
How do you choose to relax?
If I’m tired I just like to lose myself in a really good television drama. Otherwise I love eating out with friends and family and I really enjoy going to the theatre.
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