Kerry Thomas, National Manager Practice Advice, BT Group Licensees.
What is your current role and how did you get there?
I worked in hospitality for four years after leaving school. My first role in financial services was as an executive receptionist at ING. I’d always been interested in finance but didn’t know if that was what I wanted to do. When I left ING I worked with an adviser for three years and while there I completed my PS146 and became an adviser. I continued to study for the next 10 years until I completed my Masters of Applied Finance. I spent over 5 years working as a Financial Adviser until I joined what is now the BT Group Licensees team nearly 6 years ago.
What made you interested in financial planning as a career?
The adviser I was working for, Denis Cubis, had an ethos that he never wanted to cross the street to avoid a client. I watched him help his clients and the relationship he had with clients - how much of their lives he was involved in, and the guidance he provided. He knew what was important to them, who was important to them and had genuine empathy with the clients. I decided to become an adviser as a direct result of Denis and the relationships he had with his clients.
Denis started his advising life as a risk insurance adviser and I saw a number of claims both for him and then as an adviser myself. You can’t take away the bad event that happens to a client but you can help them from a financial security perspective so that they can focus on what’s important at that time in their lives. An insurance payment provides clients with choices and flexibility and can make a significant difference to the client, even in their medical treatment choices.
Did you have a mentor/role model/sponsor?
Dennis Cubis was my mentor and even now that he’s been retired for 10 years we’re still in touch and he checks in to see how things are going. When I was first interested in the industry Denis andhis wife Beryl supported me in the completion of my DFP and backed me when I showed an interest even though I wasn’t sure about how it would go, particularly at a time when young female advisers were rare in the industry. Denis was also my role model and sponsor.
What gives you job satisfaction?
Helping people - for me that’s the reason I became an adviser. It’s not that I thought that I was special or unique but just knowing that I could help people understand they were on the right track, or had made great financial decisions, or make a difference to their lives.
When I was an adviser it was giving clients advice that they could meet their goals - like retiring, and peace of mind that everything they’ve worked so hard for is protected and they can do what they had hoped and dreamed for.
The role of an adviser is really a finance coach in a lot of ways. Your client has to feel comfortable with your recommendations and most importantly, they need to understand them. Not all decisions are purely financial – there is often a lot of emotion attached – and being involved in that discussion, both as a sounding board and in providing context to the impact of the decisions, is a significant part to an adviser’s role.
Why are you involved with the Stella Network (Kerry is a new ambassador)?
- I’m really passionate about financial advice and financial literacy. I believe that whether you are an adviser, or you support an adviser (in any capacity) has a role to play in this area.
- It’s important we do everything we can to encourage more women into the industry. I started advising in my mid-20s and often I was the only female in the room, and more often the only female under 30 in the room. Whilst I think we’ve come a long way since then I think there is still a lot of work to be done to increase the number of women who choose to join this profession.
What do you think will encourage greater diversity in financial advice?
The collective us - as a profession promoting women in the industry, promoting the profession and the endless opportunities there are for anyone who’s interested in finance and passionate about helping people. We need to look at this not just for women already in the workforce but for those entering the workforce (i.e. future graduates). It’s not just about the technical component (as important as this is) but about wanting to make a difference for clients.
What are you passionate about outside work?
Outside work I’m passionate about my family and two boys, aged six and three, cooking - particularly baking, reading, spending time with friends.