• Bio: After qualifying as a stockbroker and financial adviser, Robert eventually set up his own business and now works in conjunction with Fyshe Horton Finney as a wealth manager.

Robert Ward

The early days

Having finished further education, I worked within the marketing industry for just under two years. The time spent within this sector provided a broad opportunity to establish a feel for the world of business, having spent many years in education.

While the sector was an interesting one, I found it to be too cyclical. My forte had always been within figures, so when presented with an opportunity to join a financial services firm as a trainee, it seemed like a perfect match for me.

Becoming a stockbroker and financial adviser

I joined a multinational financial services company that was undergoing rapid expansion within the UK market. My initial position within the firm was as a trainee investment manager where I learned the basics of the retail sector while undertaking various exams with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).

There were a number of exams that needed to be completed to become fully qualified as a stockbroker and financial adviser, all of which provided a sound foundation for my future role. Having passed the necessary exams and training, I was officially the youngest stockbroker and financial adviser within a firm of over 200 UK advisers.

My role within the firm was an entrepreneurial one: I was to establish and set up a new office in my home of Norwich. After two years, my personal office was profitable and serving a significant number of individual investors in my local community.

Setting up my own business

After four years within the role, my firm decided to withdraw from the UK and opted to sell the business to another UK financial services company.

This provided me with an opportunity to assess my long-term future. I decided to establish my own business and employed Fyshe Horton Finney Ltd to provide services such as compliance and research.

While the decision to move from a steady, salaried employed position to my own business was not an easy one, I felt that the autonomy that would be provided for clients moving forward would be the correct decision in the long term. While I might not have chosen to leave my employed role, it was a forced decision which I am pleased I had to make.

What does my role look like now?

I now act as a wealth manager in Norfolk. I provide bespoke wealth management to individual private client investors; every client receives ongoing holistic financial planning designed for wealth creation and preservation.

The core of the business is the in-depth relationships with a limited number of high net worth clients. Objectives range from retirement planning to estate tax mitigation, all of which are individual to my clients.

By offering a whole of market service, clients are assured that decisions are made solely in their interest.

The majority of my time is spent around portfolio management and client meetings and ensuring the constant balance and appropriateness of each client’s assets. This involves continual research of oversight on investments as well as adopting a ‘top down’ approach to maintain what I see as the right asset allocation over asset classes dependent on market conditions.

I typically meet with my clients face-to-face three to four times a year to provide an update and overview on their situation and any impact that this may have on their objectives. As market conditions are ever changing, the role never stands still and continual oversight and adapting is very important.

Challenges and changes

Having worked in the industry for six years, the sector became subject to the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), which means that all advisers are required to increase their level of minimum qualification as well as make other changes by a deadline of 31 December 2012.

I was initially very sceptical about the RDR, but once I considered it further, I felt much more positive about its impact on the financial services industry and the potential it had to raise overall standards. With this in mind, I opted to move forward with the relevant exams and qualifications necessary to ensure that I was RDR qualified.

Following a period of vigorous study while balancing business commitments, I subsequently became the first UK wealth manager to be awarded a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) by the CISI. The SPS is a certificate of competence that retail investment advisers must attain in order to continue in business and the CISI is one of the awarding bodies for it appointed by the regulator, the Financial Services Authority.

I was delighted to achieve the SPS as it acknowledged my high level of professional standing whilst instilling significant confidence into clients.

Job satisfaction

The most rewarding part of my role as a wealth manager is the satisfaction of providing bespoke, face-to-face service with individual clients. With a wide universe of investment opportunities for clients to choose from, I take great pride in being able to assess the client, their objective, their risk tolerance and subsequently creating and running a bespoke strategy to meet their requirements.

It is rewarding to work with a client consistently for a period of time and to finally see them achieve their goal. Market conditions are not always favourable for the returns we would like to achieve, so the role is not always plain sailing, but having a personal relationship with clients provides the ability to reassure them and explain the mechanics of the way things work.

A good proportion of the role is educating clients, which ultimately gives them a greater understanding and confidence. Without this assistance, a good proportion of clients would simply not retire when they want to, would not take the holidays they want to, or would not be able to pass as much of their money to their family as they wish to – helping with this is very rewarding.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

A good wealth manager needs to have the following:

  • Professionalism and a commitment to clients
  • Personal skills
  • Solid ethics
  • A solid grasp of figures
  • Working discipline and resilience
  • A willingness to continue to improve and adapt to changes within the industry.

Put simply, money and money managing roles will always be in existence; it will only be you that takes yourself away from this industry.

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