Making the decision to start a new business requires plenty of planning. But when faced with an unforeseen event like a global pandemic even the best laid plans can be challenged.
After 23 years as an employee in the financial services industry I was excited about starting my own business, SurePlan Financial. The decision to start a business was a gradual one. Prior to 2017 I was a broker account manager, supporting financial brokers with technical advice and product knowledge so they could give their clients sound financial advice. Wishing to be more at the forefront of the financial advice process, I joined a financial broker company where I enjoyed working directly with clients.
I was advising many business owners on their financial planning. Seeing other people, not all that different to me, running their own businesses planted the seed in my mind of starting my own business. I was happy as an employee, but I always enjoy an extra challenge. While working as an advisor, I studied for additional qualifications. This meant juggling the demands of a full-time job and a part-time course for a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning at University College Dublin. My work was based in Dublin and Cork, so I did some of my study and work on the train back and forth. Along with the UCD qualification, I am accredited with the internationally recognised qualification of Certified Financial Planner™ or CFP® through the Financial Planning Standards Board. I completed my studies with an MSC in Financial Services from UCD and shortly afterwards set up SurePlan Financial.
Financial Planning and Calculated Risks
I like to practice what I preach, so before starting my own business, I put some of my own financial planning in place. As all financial broker companies are regulated by the Central Bank, I knew that it could take six months for the authorisation to come through before I could start working with clients. In order to go through the authorisation process, I would have to leave my job. So, I set up a plan to potentially support myself for a year until SurePlan Financial got off the ground. As I got to the point of being ready financially, we had just entered the first lockdown.
Some who knew my plans, advised me to wait until after the pandemic. Another, who had started a similar business in previous hard times, reassured me. There were also personal experiences that had made me think that life was too short not to give entrepreneurship a go. After reflecting on my reasons for starting my business and reviewing my financial plan, I decided to listen to my gut. People may think that financial planning means being cautious and risk averse. But actually, sometimes you have to take a calculated short-term risk for bigger rewards in the long-term.
The pandemic meant that many people were looking for financial advice, some for the first time. Some people found that they were saving money due to their changed lifestyle. With interest rates on deposits so low recently, they were looking to get a better return on the extra money they suddenly had. Less fortunate people had to make difficult decisions because they were furloughed, or their businesses closed indefinitely. Knowing that I was ready financially and that people will always need financial advice, I took the plunge. SurePlan Financial became a reality and not just an idea in my head during the pandemic.
Why I started SurePlan Financial
There were two reasons that I decided to set up my own financial planning business. Like most people who work for a living, I am looking forward to my own financial freedom and retirement in the future. Starting my own business is one of the steps on the way there. However, more importantly I want to give clients a really personalised service and form long-term relationships with them. As a financial broker company, SurePlan Financial has access to many providers and so I can offer clients a choice. I help them find just the right product to suit their goals and their budgets.
Being a financial planner means that I get to meet all kinds of people and hear about their ambitions for the future. It sounds corny, but it’s a real privilege to be part of those conversations and to help make those dreams come true. One meeting could be with a single person running their own business and planning to buy their first home, the next could be with parents figuring out how they will manage the expenses of educating their children through college. Or I could be reviewing someone’s pension to ensure their retirement income will give them the lifestyle they deserve. Every client is different, but the relationships always start with an initial complimentary consultation. I use this to discover what the client’s current financial situation is and what they want for the future.
I am still basing my business in Cork and Dublin, and hopefully will be able to meet clients in person again in the near future. For now, everything is happening virtually and I am able to fit in virtual meetings with clients after they finish work as well as during office hours. One of the changes that the pandemic has brought is that people are much more comfortable meeting virtually, so that may continue to be the main way we meet in the future. This has given me an advantage that wouldn’t have been possible before the pandemic, as it means that my business is actually nationwide now.
I have no regrets about starting my business during the pandemic. I had been planning it for so long that I think if I had lost my nerve I would have regretted not giving it a go. The main reason to look at your financial plan is so that you can ensure that your financial reality can live up to your dreams. I wouldn’t be much of a role model for my clients if I hadn’t been able to pull off starting up my business during the lockdown! Almost one year on from making the decision and that early planning has paid off. SurePlan Financial is going well and has big plans for 2021 and beyond. Watch this space for some further news very soon! If you would like to find out more about SurePlan Financial or to review your financial plans, book a complimentary consultation – www.sureplan.ie/
Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)
Managing Director, SurePlan Financial