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From semi-professional rugby to financial advice

IA speaks with one of the first graduates of the St James’s Place academy

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Academies can be a powerful tool in the financial advice industry’s fight to combat the dwindling pool of advisers.

Advisers are expected to exit the industry in their droves. St James’s Place (SJP) has been trying to make a difference for a decade.

After launching an academy in 2012 after a pilot period with a more ad hoc intake, over 1,000 budding advisers have been welcomed through its doors, with 844 still part of the SJP network today.

The academy welcomes people from all walks of life including second careerists like Codey Rees.

Rees, who was one of the first cohort of the SJP Academy, is now an adviser after working at the Office for National Statistics and being a semi-professional rugby player.

Cardiff-born Rees played for Newport RFC and Cardiff RFC during his economics university degree and work.

Pre-academy

He admitted to International Adviser: “Originally, I didn’t actually want to move to London. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then a job came up at the Office for National Statistics in Newport. I worked there as a government economist. There was no commerciality and no client interactions. That’s when I pursued some different options.

“I was only a semi-professional player on the side of university and work. To be honest, it was probably part of the reason why I didn’t actually move to London.

“A lot of people do grad schemes, but due to the rugby link, we always think we’re going to get our lucky break, and hence why I stayed in Wales. Ironically, I now live in London.”

Pursuing advice

After learning about the sector during an accidental meeting on a golf course with a SJP partner, Rees believed his want to have good client relationships made him pursue an advice career.

“My ability to work with numbers, technical background and the thought process of putting my degree to work helped my decision to become an adviser,” he said. “You don’t actually need to have a degree to get into financial advice – but I wanted to continue to the finance route. Ultimately, I just liked the thought of the relationship element of being an adviser.”

Rees said his time in the SJP academy was “tough” due to the course workload – but this would not have been helped by his gruelling journey.

“The academy was only in London at the time,” Rees said. “I was getting the 4am Megabus out of Cardiff and it was three and a half hours into Victoria and then a walk to the office. I must admit it was quite tough doing that. Then, I stayed over in London in hotels.

“I tried to stay in the office, but they wouldn’t let me for health and safety reasons. Doing all of that and taking exams, I must admit that was quite tough to start with.

“In the academy, you’re in the classroom for six months, allocated a mentor and then do your exams. But then at the end of the six months, you’re let out into the wild to build a business. That was tough. There wasn’t a queue of clients lined up on the Megabus. That was the hardest thing.”

Sports connection

Rees’ sporting background played a big part in his drive and determination to become an adviser despite the physical toll it took on him during his advice education.

He believes there’s certainly overlaps between sports and financial advice.

“I think sports almost creates a level playing ground,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about your background and I think that gives you the confidence to speak to people from all walks of life.

“You have lots of different people in the rugby team and that leads into developing your interpersonal skills. Then you develop a really large network through the various teams you played for and that helps when you’re looking to build a business.

“If you’ve played any sport in a competitive level, the discipline, hunger and work ethic in players are all good attributes to become advisers.”

Lessons learned

Rees has been an adviser for over a decade, and is now based in London – running his own SJP practice.

But he admits that the “breadth” of the job was surprising to him as he grew into the profession.

Rees said that the different topics involved from IHT planning to rebalancing portfolio to protection advice meant he has continued to keep learning through the chartered route to make sure he has all of the technical knowledge at his disposal.

He added: “In terms of lessons, I have learned to be more confident with clients. At the beginning, I would take the clients’ word for everything and what I have learned is the need to challenge clients.

“In the early days, I was nervous, and, frankly, felt lucky to be in front of them. I wouldn’t push back as much. Whereas now, years later I am a lot more confident to drive the conversation, as opposed to being more passive.”

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