At both school and university, I was told anyone who loves maths should be an accountant, so wanting to be different, I trained to be an actuary instead; at 21 I wasn’t confident enough to look people in the eye anyway! In 1990, when Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You dominated the radio, I joined General Portfolio as a trainee actuary in the Harlow office in Essex. I enthusiastically worked on anything that was thrown at me and developed a huge interest in computers. During the three years I was there most of my time was spent creating a program to project policyholder’s fund values to maturity. When it was launched I was incredibly proud to have developed something that would help policyholders better understand their savings. After a change of job and a few years diligently pricing life policies and valuing the annuity book, I got itchy feet and craved something different.
My plunge into the world of pensions started with Tim Evans, of Jardine Reeves Brown, who at my interview said that despite my lack of pensions knowledge, he could see potential. I will be forever grateful for the trust he placed in me. And for his guidance and wise words of encouragement, which helped me grow as both a person and pension consultant. He also taught me what it meant to celebrate success, but that’s not for this article! Fifteen years into my career, I discovered my true passion at KPMG – carefully and patiently helping people understand the complexities of pensions and, hopefully helping them to make the right choices. Helping employers to engage with their employees to help them better understand their benefits . At this stage in my career, I had qualified as an actuary but as employee communications are not part of the actuarial syllabus, I took myself off to learn again. After that I dived in, taking on successively larger, more complex, projects. The larger the better as far as I was concerned.
In 2014 my life changed forever when my wife died. I was devastated, and the next two years were, without doubt, the hardest of my life. During this time I learnt a lot about me, about what’s truly important in my life and perhaps most importantly how to be a ‘proper dad’ to my two children. I also gained the confidence to push even further beyond my lovely cosy comfort zone.
After a fantastic year, jumping in to teach GCSE maths to a group of year 11 students I now find myself, a little unexpectedly, back in the world of pensions. At the ripe old age of 52, I have ‘retired’ from the actuarial profession and started a new career, building on the foundations that helped me get here. And I love it. Just over a year ago, I jumped again. But this time into the world of PR & marketing, working with the brilliant Kate Boyle and a wonderful team of seven colleagues at the award-winning PR and marketing agency, KBPR. It’s been a fantastic, exciting, and - at times - crazy year with a few curveballs thrown our way. I didn’t foresee failing my home-schooling exams, learning how to bake a quadruple chocolate cake or or entering the virtual world as an avatar! I can not begin to imagine what the next few years will bring…
My advice to anyone starting out in pensions
First and foremost, make the most of every day – laugh at least once, if not a lot more. And after you’ve laughed, seize every opportunity that comes your way and jump out of your comfort zone. And jump as far as you can because only by doing this can you truly discover the amazing things that you can achieve.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine November/December edition.
Last update: 27 January 2021