Charlotte Curd had never thought about working in financial services. But while studying for her A-levels, she stumbled across a local apprenticeship.
Three years on, and now aged 20, Curd is the youngest person to attain the diploma in regulated financial planning.
After taking part in a careers week at college, Curd was given the responsibility of compiling a list of apprenticeships. ‘I got an email from someone about an apprenticeship,’ Curd says. ‘It sounded great so I applied for it, I got it and left school without finishing my A levels.’
BBi Berns Brett in South Woodford, north east London, took Curd on as an apprentice when she was 17. Her role first consisted mainly of administrative work before progressing to more of a paraplanning and research position.
‘I sat there at work one day and thought: “I’ve finished my apprenticeship now, what’s next? I’m going to do my diploma”,’ says Curd. ‘But I want to be the youngest to do it.’
At the time, the youngest person to hold the diploma was 21 years old and Curd knew she had her work cut out. ‘It was tough, especially trying to do it outside work,’ she adds, ‘but it paid off.’
The diploma took Curd around 18 months to complete. She found working on the job simultaneously helped her understand and apply the ideas.
This was also a good time for Curd, as she could completely devote herself to her studies. ‘I didn’t have the worry of kids or running a home,’ she says.
Curd left Berns Brett in January this year but, having attained her diploma, she has been invited to return to the firm in September as an adviser. In the meantime she is joining Camp America for three months.
Camp America is a US summer camp programme where volunteers help run the camp for two months and then spend 30 days travelling around the country. ‘I’ve worked constantly or have been studying for the past two years, so I decided to get away for three months,’ Curd explains. ‘I’d like to head to California.’
What is it like to be a young woman in a male-dominated profession? ‘It can be quite daunting,’ she says. ‘I remember when I first started going to seminars and I would be the only woman there sometimes. And, most of the time I was the only young person there.’
She is quick to add that, despite this, it is a fantastic profession that presents some great opportunities, particularly for young women. Most professionals agree there is a need for more women and there is a real focus on bringing through the next generation of advisers.
Taking the initial steps into financial services really paid off for Curd. Her next goal is to attain chartered status.
She also looks forward to returning to Berns Brett after Camp America. The entire process has proved testing yet rewarding and has dispelled her misconceptions.
‘You can learn so much,’ she says. ‘I know I have in the past two and a half years.
‘For example, I used to think pensions were just for old people and investments were just for those who are keen to invest and have money to do so.’