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Compliance: Key to Long-Term Success  - Marina Herbert

22nd January 2023

New Year, new me... right? That is what I keep hearing… Well, I don’t quite think there is anything new about me this year or any past January for that matter.

Why do we need the feel anew at the start a new year and why does a calendar cycle give us the feeling that we need to be in phase with the cycle? I’ll never know, but I get it.

I came to take over the operations of H&W, Chartered Financial Planners a few years ago and let us say, I was not born an Ops Director. Whilst I love what I do, it’s fair to say it’s been a journey. A painful one at times and an exciting one most of the times but a journey nonetheless. Yet, I don’t remember any new me shining through, just old me with more practice and confidence.

I love what I do, I love that my role is so varied, I love that I have to think of the overall purpose for the business and also of the steps we’re going to take to get there and beyond. I love that we’re a small and amazing Team who unapologetically uses thrives, using the wonders of technology and the power of outsourcing in order to provide that local impact with a global reach.

Personal growth isn’t quite enough in any industry. You need to understand said industry to such a high level to even understand what personal growth is needed really. And what an industry we work in, the finance sector in the UK! It is at the heart of everything, past, present and more importantly future - therefore, quite rightly so, highly regulated.

2024 is sure to bring its fair share of new regulation...

Sure, a considerable part of my role is to make sure that we operate in a profitable manner but also, in a compliant one. I am responsible for a team who in turn is responsible for their own family wellbeing, dreams and little ones too. It is paramount that the business grows, no doubt about that. It’s also paramount that it does so in line with the current regulations. Fail to be compliant and there won’t be a business to run for much longer.

So regulations and compliance, annoying hinderance or an inevitable part of our growth?

Some old school approach used to mock that compliance is the Anti-Business Brigade. Truth is, to be an adviser, you must be incredibly kind and have that innate fibre to want to help others. The vast majority of Financial Planners are good individuals and want to do good, we’re just not used to recording absolutely everything that we do or say.

I think regulations have made us a stronger business. We have selected strong partners to accompany us on that journey, remember I mentioned the power of outsourcing – Don’t second guess your understanding is enough to navigate through regulatory oceans, get an expert captain instead!

But really, regulations are a great part of our industry. It forces us to have a clear process and high levels of transparency. At H&W, we choose to embrace it and make sure it’s a genuine part of our culture rather than a tick in the box exercise – that’s meaningless and insulting to our clients. They deserve to be afforded the highest protection when seeking financial advice. We welcome regulations because without them, anyone could call themselves a Financial Planner, crooks and villains included and we would not be able to set ourselves apart from them. So I say, regulations and compliance are an integral part of our industry’s success.

Some might think Ops is the department in the shadow, the behind the scenes land where no one knows what really goes on because the protagonists are the Financial Planners in our case. To those, I say that at H&W Operations sole aim to bring the level support to the Advising Team and to do so with enough direction and dedication that H&W can do well and do good.

Marina Herbert - Operations Director

Back to School  - Selena Hills

14th December 2023

As we near the end of the year, the time has come to reflect on the last 12 months. From settling in to the 9-to-5 life, exams, and networking, to moving out of my parents’ house, it has been a busy year. I even found myself back at school when, in an effort to give back to our community, we signed ourselves up to give personal finance presentations to local secondary schools.

It was strange to be back at a school, not having stepped foot in one for four years, and it was even more so presenting at the school I went to for my entire secondary education. Walking the same hallways I did when I was an angsty teenager, this time as a confident professional, was frankly bizarre.

Getting set up to present to a hall full of Year 13s, all staring blankly up at me, I tried to stay calm despite the panic rising in my stomach. I vividly remembered being sat in their position and wanted to make sure that my presentation was useful and engaging as I took them through credit, debt, budgeting, and the importance of managing their money.

Thankfully, the presentation was well received, and a few students came up to me afterwards to ask questions about student finance, part time jobs, and my experience as an alumnus of the school who somehow made my way from a classics degree to a job in financial services.

These young people, so close to entering the big wide world of university or work, seemed uncertain about money, and almost afraid to ask questions, perhaps due to fear of embarrassment or fear that they will be even more confused by the answer. In the age of TikTok misinformation, spreading awareness of personal finance to younger generations is even more relevant and necessary.

This has become clear since I started working in the industry, as my friends often ask me about pensions, savings, and investments, things we weren’t taught about in school. Many are frustrated that we were not better educated to understand basic personal finance and are instead left to figure things out and hope we make the right decisions.

There is a wasted opportunity here. With better education comes the ability to guide young people to build healthy financial habits from an earlier age and to prevent so many from getting into tricky situations.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make these presentations regularly, at the very least to encourage young people to talk about money, with their friends or parents, and to not be afraid to ask questions. I want to spread the word that, with some planning and awareness, money doesn’t have to be a source of anxiety.

Selena HIlls - Trainee Financial Planner

4th September 2023

My Unexpected Journey into Finance - Anthony Massie

When I finished my degree in Creative Music Technology, dreaming of rocking the world as a music producer or shredding solos on my electric guitar, finance was about as far from my mind as rocket science.

After finishing university I found my calling in hospitality. Climbing the ranks, I proudly managed two award-winning restaurants. However, if you've ever worked in the world of hospitality, you'll know it's like being in a never-ending episode of a reality TV cooking show, minus the cameras. It's a world where your social life becomes elusive and weekends are mere myths.

Fast forward a decade, at the ripe age of 30, I needed to change things up and re-evaluate my priorities. My work-life balance had gone from precarious to downright laughable. I needed a change, and I needed it pronto.

Enter Adam and Marina, my life's unexpected saviours. I’m sure they’ll laugh at me for saying so but they helped me in more ways than I could possibly gush about in a blog. We knew each other from a previous employment I had, and in passing, they'd always said, "If you're ever at a loose end, give us a call." Well, I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nearly four years into working at Herbert and Webster, I still can't quite believe how I ended up here. I've evolved into the role of Operations and Marketing Manager, which, when people ask me about my day-to-day, often leaves them scratching their heads. Honestly, even I struggle to pin it down. One moment, I'm tinkering with our website; the next, I'm solving puzzles to make our client journey smoother than a freshly buttered slice of toast. Social media content, IT wizardry, document creation – you name it, I do it. But you know what? That's precisely why I adore this role. Every day is a new adventure, and predictability is as out of place as a lifeguard in a desert oasis.

The financial world isn't the dull, one-size-fits-all arena you might think it is. It's a vast playground with something for everyone. There are roles in finance that would are made to suit almost anyone. Plus, the best part? Many skills are as transferable and I find myself utilising lots of things I learnt working on the restaurant floor.

I've learned a ton since I joined Herbert and Webster and it’s crazy to me to think that four years ago, the term "pension" was about as clear to me as the lyrics to a heavy metal song. Who would've thought that a guy who once rocked out on stage would end up in finance? Life is one heck of a surprise party. So, if you're contemplating a leap into the world of finance, remember this: there's a seat at the table for everyone, even the former rockstar wannabes.

Anthony Massie - Operations & Marketing Manager

14th July 2023

Client Meeting - Selena Hills

Sitting in on client meetings is incredibly daunting at first. Entering the Zoom waiting room or walking into the client’s home, the butterflies begin to flutter, and nerves grow. There is some excitement about where the discussion will start and where it will end. It is unpredictable, a mystery you are hoping to investigate and solve. But within this unknown is also the anxiety that comes in, and I start to question myself. What if they ask me something and my mind goes blank? What if I forget how to do small talk?

Having an experienced colleague leading the meeting makes all concerns fall away, asking and answering questions so instinctively. It is so exciting to observe, and I hope to absorb as much of this skill as possible.

Now I find that I can use these interactions to test my knowledge, seeing if I can come up with answers in my head which are similar to those of the adviser. Thankfully, I’m not often barking up the wrong tree, so it looks like I am learning something, after all.

At first, I thought initial client meetings would feel like a high-pressure environment. Having sat in a few now, I can honestly say that these have been some of my favourite learning experiences so far. You get to connect with your client, and there’s the added bonus of seeing what their houses look like and meeting their pets. I always hope the client has a pet.

It is clear to me now that these meetings are one of the great parts of this job. These conversations ensure that there is always variety in your week. Seeing different people, each with different problems and different personalities, is something I can’t wait to experience as a qualified adviser.

Selena Hills - Trainee Financial Planner

28th April 2023

Let's Talk About Networking - Selena Hills

I’ve seen networking in the movies. You’ve got these well-dressed men, obsessing over business cards and firm handshakes, milling around a grand venue making connections. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself represented in that crowd and real-life networking events tend to go a little differently. As a result, it was quite hard to know what to expect when I went to my first networking event.

Walking into the room as a novice of the industry, I often find myself trying to prove to myself and to others that I belong there. If I am with my colleagues, I cling to them like that friend who doesn’t know anyone else at the party and won’t leave you alone. They’re a safety net. This is a completely unknown world for me, so a little bit of guidance is more than helpful.

But why is it so intimidating? I can manage small talk and give my opinion, but I am still often afraid to be asked a technical question for fear of embarrassing myself.

I need to remind myself that most people aren’t there to trip me up, to make me look stupid, or to judge me. Most are there simply to get to know other people from a variety of industries, with the added bonus of a buffet lunch; and I cannot tell you the relief that comes from seeing a table of food from across the room for the conversations it encourages on how dry the sandwiches are.

With some perseverance and positivity, I am beginning to understand the benefit of going to these events. They offer a great opportunity to learn from those who have been in your shoes in the past. As a trainee, the experience of others is such a valuable tool so I try to take in as much information as possible, even if it is awkward to start with.

It’s a skill, which I may not have mastered yet, but hope to learn by repeated experience, and whilst it might not be like the movies, there will definitely be a mixture of characters.

28th February 2023

Learning the Ropes - Selena Hills

When starting a new job, it often feels that learning the ropes is an insurmountable task.

Working in such a regulated industry it became very apparent by the end of my first day in financial services that there is A LOT I need to know. I looked, and still look, at my colleagues as figures of knowledge and wisdom; with their years of experience, they know every answer to every question and, at first, it was difficult not to feel out of my depth. Now I recognise that working alongside my colleagues is the most valuable resource, granting me the opportunity to learn from shadowing them.

Of course, it would be too easy if all I had to do was absorb their knowledge like a sponge, naturally there is a textbook or two (or six) involved. Now I am having to manage the delicate balance between work and studying for my exams, whilst also ensuring that regular life doesn’t get neglected.

When I finished my degree, I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of MORE exams but there is the added satisfaction of knowing that I am working hard for the sake of my career. As much as I wanted to put down my revision materials for good, the vision of my qualified self in the not-too-distant future is motivating. Looks like these flashcards will be sticking around for a little bit longer.

What I didn’t expect, and what I am extremely grateful for, is that I’d end up enjoying the process. Whilst I do get stressed and anxious when exam dates loom and those pesky definitions won’t stick in my brain, I am finding the study a useful endeavour. With RO1 and RO5 complete, I am starting to apply knowledge I have learned to my work day-to-day, and frankly it’s exciting to feel like I’m not entirely clueless anymore. I’m learning, progressing, and loving it!

Busy days at work combined with, at times, brain-melting study has certainly left me exhausted on a few occasions, but with the support of my colleagues and loved ones, it is something that I feel is worth the effort.

So, with an optimistic mind, I’m moving on to tackle RO3 next, Personal Taxation; a subject which is shudder-inducing for some, and I don’t doubt will require more hard work. Regardless, I’m ready to give it my best shot.

31st January 2023

New Beginnings - Selena Hills

Writing at the start of the new year, it is inevitable that the subject of new beginnings springs to mind.

I’m Selena, a Trainee Financial Planner at Herbert and Webster, and it seems like life recently has been nothing but new beginnings. I mean this not quite in the ‘new year, new me’ fashion, but in the sense that in the last 6 months I found myself finishing my degree, going through the motions of not being sure what I wanted to do with my life, and starting work in mid-November at Herbert and Webster, an IFA firm in the lovely countryside town of Marlow.

It’s safe to say that 2022, for me, ended with a big smile on my face, having been welcomed into a friendly and supportive team and being excited for what lay in store for my career in 2023.

Studying all-things Classics related at UCL until June 2022, I was more accustomed to analysis of ancient Greek pottery or classical literature than the differences between defined benefit and defined contribution pensions, and yet, here I am. Whilst a correlation between my degree and my career might be hard to find, I have always had an appreciation of, and interest in, money and what financial planning can achieve. I can’t wait to share this excitement with my clients when I am a qualified Planner. Through my studies and my job, I am already learning so much and truly believe that providing advice, or even sharing awareness of certain financial matters, can provide peace of mind for so many people.

Having settled in to my day-to-day at Herbert and Webster, and with my RO1 exam under my belt, now seems as good a time as any to begin documenting my career journey, with the end goal being completing my Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. I hope that, by writing monthly about topics I find important or interesting within financial education, or about things that I am currently learning, I will be able to grant insight into Financial Services from the perspective of someone new to the industry, who is curious to get stuck in and discover what it’s all about.

So, with all that in mind, here’s to new beginnings!

Selena Hills - Trainee Financial Planner