An unconventional route to Chartered Fellow of the Personal Finance Society
From working with young people to police analyst to Chartered Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, Sally Jackson (Chartered Financial Planner, HFL Financial Advisers) walks us through her career journey.
How the journey started
Following a degree in Maths and Sports Science I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I started my career working in a further education college in a learning support role and later as a lecturer in sports teaching students from level 1 GNVQ up to a BTEC National Diploma (Sports and Exercise Science). I then worked in a further role with young people who were from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them get into education and worked alongside public sector agencies before joining the police as an analyst in a newly created role for Nottinghamshire Police. My job was to work out what crime and anti-social behaviour was taking place, where it was happening, what time it was happening, who was doing it and generally working out how to prevent it in the first place. Often when crime is prevalent in any area, there were often issues with fires, increased ambulance call outs, the offenders generally lived in the area etc and so the agencies would work together to try and achieve better results.
Looking back, I think there are some similarities between my role in teaching and the police force. Firstly, in both I am helping people, I was helping people to get an education and qualifications and I was helping people to better deploy resources to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Secondly, to achieve that, critical thinking is needed to make young people thinking differently about how an education can help them through life and then how to interpret data for the police that ultimately benefits the public. The new role with the police appealed to me because of the analytical skills required to interpret data.
A critical thinker
This was all about problem solving using vast sources of data and mapping software. I was officially a geek, but people always said that I was never a typical analyst as I could communicate with all sorts of people and could communicate technical ‘stuff’. I used to present my findings to a wide range of people at senior levels in authority and they would use my recommendations to formulate strategic plans and direct resources accordingly. I really enjoyed this role and the highlight was receiving a national award for problem solving which was presented at Westminster. I felt I had achieved everything I could and was looking for a new challenge. It was then that somebody put the idea to me to become a mortgage adviser.
Becoming a mortgage and protection adviser would allow me to continue using the skills I enjoy most, helping people and problem solving. For me it was an easy decision to follow this path. I sat my first exam in December 2015 whilst I was still working within the police and I had decided to take voluntary redundancy and set up as a self-employed mortgage adviser. To leave a secure employed role and start working for myself in a completely different industry, a scary move for some people but for me this felt right. Looking back my attitude to risk was clearly off the scale!!!!
I achieved the certificate in mortgage advice in February 2016 and then equity release later that year. I didn’t intend to become a ‘full financial adviser’ but was persuaded to continue and achieved the diploma in regulated financial planning in February 2018. I had a little break from exams and then thought, because I was relatively new in the industry it would give me a lot more credibility if I was ‘Chartered’ and so I completed the exams within 2 years and achieved my advanced diploma in December 2020 (the same year that I joined HFL), exactly 5 years after starting in the industry! That’s it I thought, no more exams………
No more exams, or was it?
I was then at a CII awards evening in January this year (which had been delayed due to Covid) whereby I was sat with other advisers who were being recognised for achieving chartered status and they were discussing next steps to gain their fellowship. I hadn’t understood the process and after supping the several bottles of wine on the table we had calculated that it could be achieved by passing another 4 exams. To some people, I’m sure when you’ve already accepted in your mind that studying and exams are finished, to then find out you have another four exams to study for, you may ask yourself do I really need to do it? For me, I looked at it from the point of view that I’ve already completed 14 exams, what’s another 4 at this point!
I have always wanted to achieve the best that I can and so I created a plan and set myself the challenge of gaining fellowship by the end of 2023. For the last 4 exams I have studied on weekends and sat my exams on Sunday afternoons generally through the ‘proctored’ route which involves remote invigilation – this has been very stressful as there have either been problems with the technology and in one exam I got told off for putting my hand in front of my mouth whilst I was thinking…slightly off-putting 😊. But I have passed my final exam and now have achieved the Fellowship status.
Fellowship status? Been there, done it [mic drop]
Over the last 8 years I have sat 18 exams and passed 17 on the first attempt. The most challenging module has been AF8 – Retirement income planning which consists of 3 assignments. On the third assignment I was down to my last attempt and luckily, I scraped through. It has taken a lot of focus, commitment and sacrifice (I have had several holidays whereby I have been sat doing past papers) and extreme boredom getting through the thick study books. What I can say is that it really has enhanced my knowledge and that helps with confidence. It has also helped with credibility as it is becoming an expectation that advisers are qualified to at least chartered status.
Do I know everything? Certainly not, there are gaps in my knowledge, but doesn’t everyone? It is down to us to constantly be up to date with what is going on for the benefit of our clients.
People used to say that a police analyst and a financial adviser are very different…I always say that in both circumstances we are working to problem solve and get the best outcome for the client, it is all about focusing on what we want to achieve and putting a plan in place to get there! It doesn’t matter what career you start in, if you want something and are prepared to study for it you can get there. 20 years after finishing university I am now taking a permanent break from exams and studying 😊
Sally Jackson, FPFS, Chartered Financial Planner, HFL Financial Advisers part of One Four Nine Group
Find out more about Sally here.