I’ve never come across anyone whose career goal while at school was to be a Pensions Consultant. If I think back to 1982, having left school because I hated the ‘examination process’, the job at Sun Alliance in their executive pensions department was meant to be a temporary arrangement for a year while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. As it turns out, that one year turned into 38 years! While I still don’t know what I’m intending to do with my life, a career in pensions has served me well to date.
This came about because of three influential things.
The first was my father who, using a lot of old sayings to demonstrate his guidance, told me that ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. Having demonstrated this to my employer, the second influential factor was the willingness of an employer to invest in their employees. This has become a key factor in assessing potential employers and, generally, it is now a well understood requirement but was less so back in the early 1980s. I was soon enrolled onto a part-time BTEC course in Business and Finance, the prequel to my professional exams.
I passed the course and having flirted briefly with the Chartered Insurance Institute, it was following a change of employment to a consultancy firm that the third influential event occurred. This was to be the introduction to my mentor who, being an associate of the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) and examiner at the time, told me that if I was serious about converting my clerical occupation into a profession, the Pensions Management Institute was the route for me. I recall him saying that to progress in pensions you must first understand the building blocks. Thus my first two subjects were Scheme Constitution and Design, and Law and Taxation. The syllabus and structure of the PMI qualifications has changed significant over the last 30 years and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the learning page on the PMI website for anyone starting out in the examination process to assess and determine the best learning route for them.
The Institute was enormously helpful in the four-year period during which I studied for my Associateship, with many members offering support and guidance. Following my qualification, over the next 26 years, the support has continued through both the Institute and several regional groups.
It is only fair that having benefited from the knowledge of others that those qualified should repay the debt and I hope that I have done that, having held several training and educational roles as well as writing for both trade journals and national titles. I have also campaigned to preserve the good name of pensions through the recent dark days, where scams and mis-selling have taken the headlines on what has been, and always will be, a key element of every individual’s financial portfolio.
Ironically, my youthful exam phobia led me on to a path which through both qualifications and on-going learning, have delivered a long and rewarding pensions profession, an enjoyable career, a good living, excellent colleagues and many friends.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine November/December edition.
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