Politics graduate Sarah Siddons had a shining career in advertising when she decided to give it all up eight years ago to train as a financial planner. Now, aged 42, she’s left London for West Yorkshire where she runs her own practice. Here’s how she did it…
Growing up, what did you want to be?
Sarah Siddons: “I had lots of ideas including being a Police Officer, but started my career in advertising. My working life began in a central London advertising agency.”
Where and what did you study at university?
“I studied Politics at Warwick University.”
What was your first job after university?
“Account Executive for a small advertising agency in central London.”
How did you get that all-important first role?
“I moved down to London straight from university and applied for various jobs through recruitment agencies.”
At what point did you realise you wanted to work in the finance sector?
“In 2007, after working in my previous career for nearly 15 years.”
Where did the motivation came from?
“I was financially advised by a St. James’s Place Partner for a number of years and felt I’d be good at the job, plus I liked the idea of working with individuals rather than companies.”
How close is that role to what you do now?
“Actually, there’s more similarity than one might think as both roles put the client at the centre of everything you do.”
Back then – in your first graduate job – did you have a clear career path planned out?
“Honestly, no! I think, like a lot of inexperienced young graduates, I had ambitions to progress quickly but had no real idea of where I would be today and the eventual change of career direction I would take.”
So how did you make your career decisions?
“I think my career direction has mainly been based on a desire to be master of my own destiny and to be in a position where I am in control. Of course location has proved to be important (who wouldn’t want to work from the beautiful Wharfe Valley!), but for the most part it’s been based on the opportunity to run a business which revolves around my family, rather than the other way around.”
What post-graduate training have you completed that’s helped you reach where you are today?
“In 2008 I completed several months of training with the St. James’s Place Academy. This involved qualifying through The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) as a Certified Financial Planner. Then, in 2011, I studied and qualified at Diploma level with the CII in the lead-up to the Retail Distribution Review – new rules for financial advisers from the Financial Conduct Authority. St. James’s Place has provided a fantastic level of support throughout this process.”
What does a typical day involve?
“I tend to work Monday to Thursday. My children are four and eight, so the first job is to drop them off at school. Sometimes I then walk the dog and usually start work around 9am. I never have client meetings before 10am. One of the joys of working for myself is being able to plan my meetings to avoid rush-hour traffic. I try and make my last meeting mid-afternoon so I can collect the children from after-school club by 5/5:30pm. I try to stick to the idea of having a buffer day on a Monday to catch up with my admin and then use Tuesday to Thursday as focus days. This means I am usually out and about meeting clients for most of these three days.
“Friday is my day to myself now the children are both at school. I don’t think I would ever choose to work full time again, and luckily I find I can manage my workload to achieve this 95% of the time. I have around eight weeks holiday a year. This gives me plenty of time away from the business to refresh, as well as being able to spend precious time with the family.”
How is your job different from what you expected it to be?
“It’s more frustrating at times than I ever envisaged! Getting things done can be frustratingly slow at times.”
What’s the best thing about what you do?
“Believing that what I do really helps people – financial security lies at the very heart of our well-being in life, but most people don’t give it enough time and attention. When I first meet people who are in this situation and then help them to formulate a workable plan, it’s really satisfying.”
“I still feel the profession isn’t viewed as a ‘profession’ in the same way as other occupations, such as accountancy and law.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out as a financial planner?
“I wish I could have seen my future ‘self’ eight years ago so I’d know everything was going to be okay! I’m proud of where I am today and will be ever grateful for the opportunity St. James’s Place gave me when they offered me a place on their Academy.”
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