I passed R01-6 and gained regulated diploma status when I was 21 years old. At 23 I became a senior paraplanner. Now 24, I plan on being a pension transfer specialist and a fellow of the Personal Finance Society next year.
But I came to the realisation early on that my age was a concern. Job applications stated ‘five years minimum paraplanning experience’ but at 22 years old, that was impossible. All I had was my drive, my diploma and my willingness to learn.
I found companies wanted to justify hiring someone my age by putting ‘junior’ in front of the job title or slashing the salary almost in half even though I met every aspect of the job description and then some. Eventually, I found firms that took me seriously and took a chance on me.
In March 2017 I joined Heritage Financial Advisers as a paraplanner but my journey began in 2011, when a mortgage and life cover adviser hired me as his part-time PA. He introduced me to financial services and encouraged me to investigate the CII exams.
Like many 18 year olds, I struggled with the choice between full-time employment and university. My parents were pushing forcefully for university. However, I was so driven to succeed and fascinated by the prospects of the industry I decided to pursue a career in financial services in the world of investments and pensions.
In late 2012, I joined a large restricted company and jumped head first into the world of R0 exams. Within a year and a half I had worked my way up from an annuity administrator to private client sales support to a fully fledged paraplanner. When I passed R01-6 and achieved regulated diploma status in 2014 I was one of the youngest ever to do so at that time.
I took an exam break and focussed on developing my career further. I thought restricted propositions were being phased out and believed true independent advice stretched over the whole of market to ensure the client was accessing the most suitable option for them. I therefore sought out independent, whole of market companies.
I quickly went from only dealing with basic financial planning to researching and analysing defined benefit pension transfers, VCTs and complex cash flow/life planning.
The role of paraplanner is still very blurred and has been quite a topical subject in recent years. Some think of paraplanners as glorified administrators and expect the extent of our input to be processing applications and filling in the odd blank space on a suitability template. Others cherish us for our industry and product knowledge, technical research abilities, bespoke report writing and client management skills.
I have decided to kick start my exam journey with the help and support of Heritage. I will be sitting AF3 and AF7 in October in order to achieve my goals for next year.
I used to think that being a young woman in the industry was a constant uphill battle. However, I now believe that it is a unique selling point. I have come so far in such a short time frame and I think more young people should be encouraged to believe in their abilities and take those senior positions. I also believe more firms should recognise the talent that our generation has to offer.
My decision to bypass university has really paid off. I have no student debt, a promising and ever-blossoming career and have been a home owner since my 21st birthday.