The next part of our #FYIFinance series comes from Holly, who has had quite the journey with us so far. From Paraplanner at Para-Sols to Training Lead at The Art of Finance, Holly tells us how she got into finance and what it’s really like working in the industry.

“I recently saw a poll on Twitter which asked how did people start their career within the financial service industry. To be honest, it may as well had only one response option as almost everyone answered saying they fell into their career by an accident… and my response would be exactly the same.

If you think about it properly though, when you’re a teeny tiny 16-year-old, you’re asked to start mapping out your career path. Whether that be an apprenticeship route or continue with Higher Education. I was a smart arse at school so Higher Education was the most obvious route for me, at least that’s what I thought at the time. Did I know the topics I wanted to do at A-Level to help me come closer to achieving my dream job? Absolutely not. So, like many others, I went with what I was good at and hoped I would learn what I want to be in 2 years’ time.

Then the 2 years absolutely flies by and you’re asked again, what do you want to do with your life?

As luck would have it, the government raised the tuition fees (wahoo) the year I was applying to go to University. Yet even though my tuition was now 4x higher than for those a year above me, it still didn’t stop me from going ahead and applying.

Why? Because I didn’t see any other option available to me. That’s the main issue, at least for the younger generation speaking from my own experience. There are so many job opportunities but you don’t have a clue where to start.

After finishing my History degree at Newcastle University, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do (gasp) and again, I wasn’t the only one. I jumped from role to role at call centres local to me whilst I was saving for a car whilst a few of my friends found their feet and were enjoying brand new career opportunities. It wasn’t until a couple of years after I graduated where I randomly came across The Grad Scheme at Para-Sols on social media.

No surprise that I didn’t know what a Paraplanner was. I didn’t apply for the role because I thought a Paraplanner role would tick all of my boxes or that it sounded amazing when I Googled it. I know that for a fact because I despised Maths at school and I thought a career in finance would be the most mundane option available to me. I applied because it was the first time I was drawn to a company’s culture and thought, that’s where I want to work.

Three years later, my career path is still changing… a lot!

What I eventually found that working at Para-Sols and training to be a Paraplanner is that I loved the nitty-gritty cases. I loved working with financial advisers and finding the most tax-efficient solution for a client (so much for hating maths) and finishing it off in a pretty suitability letter. I’m painting a nice overall picture but the build-up to that was not pretty at all. It was a brand new industry, you think you’re talking to financial experts on the phone which is terrifying, and when you think you’re finally done with exams you’re yet to face the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Although with all of that anxiety, I managed to achieve my Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning within 18 months or so and I even wanted to go straight into the Advanced Level Diploma and completed Pension Transfers (AF7) and a couple of other exams. When I think back, it’s hilarious how only three years ago, I didn’t have the slightest clue about investments or even how my many, albeit tiny, autoenrollment pensions worked!

I found out a lot about myself and to round it up nicely, I love researching something to death until I know it off by heart. I’ll admit it’s heart-breaking researching the best way to mitigate someone’s Inheritance Tax liability when my main victory that week was that I didn’t get a Costa every day, but it’s actually very interesting! The legislation and regulations are always changing so once you think you fully understand something, it’ll likely change. I prefer that though, I feel as if the job keeps you on your toes so you can’t settle.

When COVID-19 and lockdown hit, I’ve never been more thankful to be working at an innovative forward-thinking company. We twisted lockdown to our advantage and used the time to reflect on the future of paraplanning as well as the overall financial services industry. I know what it’s like to think of the financial industry as bleak and boring, and Para-Sols gave me the opportunity to start creating brand new, interactive suitability reports from scratch. They address the main issues financial advisers face but are engaging and interactive whilst still containing all of the required regulatory content in an appealing manner.

I’m passionate about trying to bring financial services into the 21st century. If I had known about this role many years earlier I would have saved myself £40k+ in student debt which will likely be coming off my payslip for the rest of my life thanks to that gorgeous high-interest rate which I didn’t know existed. I even keep banging on to my friends about how important it is to save an emergency fund which isn’t the most exciting pub chat.

Which brings me onto my next personal development within the financial service industry, you’re now looking at the new Training Lead at The Art of Finance! The Art of Finance is a new company part of The Verve Group which aims to provide training for those who are looking to get into or further develop their career in financial services. Again, if we go back to teeny tiny 16 or even 18-year-old me, I would have howled if someone said I would be

1) Working in finance.

2) TEACHING finance!

Although I have no experience with presenting and that remains a scary skill to learn from scratch, it’s an amazing role with great support which I hope to eventually encourage people like me into a career in financial services.

If you’ve put up with my waffle so far, you’ve done well, but the main point I want to put across is that when you think of a career within financial services, put the picture of an old man wearing an ill-fitting grey suit in the bin and know that there are so many exciting opportunities out there!”

Holly Johnson – Training Lead

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