Why I Became a Financial Planner

Amyr Rocha Lima

13 min read

This is the story of the journey that took me from being an old school "product salesman" to becoming a true financial planner.

It’s the story of what made me realise that financial planning was the job I was nearly doing.

However, this realisation didn't come easily.

Join me as I share my story and illustrate the complete mindset shift I embraced along the way.

Where It All Started

Firstly, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t have the most Anglo-Saxon name in the world, so don’t let my British accent fool you.

I was actually born in Brazil. Now, I know, that sounds quite exotic, but I’m from the Brazilian Midwest, so trust me when I say…

...it was more ‘City Slickers’ than ‘Girl From Ipanema’.

Growing up I got to spend my summer’s at our family’s farm, which was great fun. We mainly raised cattle and bread horses. One of the great things about going to the farm was that I got to spend a lot of time with this guy:

They say you should never meet your heroes, but I didn’t really get a choice, as mine was my grandfather. He was a great male role model. He was well respected by his friends and family. Physically and mentally he was everything I wanted to be. He just seemed fearless. Even our birthdays were on the same day.

Grandpa Rocha Lima was pretty amazing. He studied engineering at university. He married a great girl. They started a family. And he then went on to work for the Brazilian Department of Agriculture. This took him right into the heartland of the Brazilian savanna, and he had some great stories to tell us about it.

What was also great about my grandfather was that he was absolutely passionate about his career, and from an early age, that got me thinking about wanting to do something I was really passionate about too.

This is my family.

My dad was an economist and my mom a teacher. They provided my sister and I with a great upbringing, but we where by no means rich.

They figured that they would use their professional qualifications a means to create an international experience for the family by moving abroad, so that my sister and I could get an international education - and so that my parents could also further their respective careers.

So we moved to Australia, and I got to spend my childhood in Brisbane. It was a great place to be a kid, with a lot of emphasis on outdoor activities. A few years into our move, my grandparents got to come over and spend some time travelling with us, which was great fun.

We eventually moved back to Brazil and my parents then sent me to the United States to complete my senior year of high school.

Now, if all that moving around wasn’t enough, I then decided to come to the UK. I remember exactly when it was. It was 2003 and I was 18 years old. It was a big moment, because you know, I’m getting towards the end of my teens, and here I have this opportunity to do something really meaningful with my life.

Because, of course, when you’re a teenager you’ve got it all figured out. Everything makes sense and you know exactly what you want to do in life. Right?

Well I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I arrived in the UK. I wanted to buy a mini. Now, I had visions of being Michael Cane in the Italian Job, but as you can see…

…it was more like Mr Bean.

On a serious note, I was only too conscious that my teens were coming to an end and that I needed to crack on with life. I got accepted into a good university, but at the time it just wasn’t for me. I had hopes of being an actor, you know there is plenty of film production in this country and plenty of theatres in the West End. And that was fun, but I figured it was never going to be the stuff of a long-term future for me.

So, like many people before me, I fell into financial services by total accident.

A mate of mine ran the coffee shop inside Axa’s head office in Bristol. One day he said to me “I hear Axa are hiring. Why don’t you give me your CV and I’ll hand it to their HR people, next time they pop in for a coffee?”

Great career planning, right?

So I went home and did some research on this company called Axa. And I saw that it was huge! I thought surely I could find a career path in this multinational company that did everything from fine art insurance to asset management. I got through the interview process, and a few days later I got a call from the manager of the Financial Adviser Support Team, saying that he wanted me to join his team. Now let me stress that, at the time, I didn’t have a clue what a pension was, much less how investments worked.

In fact, I didn’t even know that the financial planning profession existed!

Interestingly though, it didn’t take long for me to see that I had found in financial services exactly what I was looking for.

I was really immersed in my work. I was progressing through my professional qualifications, hitting my sales targets and I was being mentored by one of the company’s top performers. So much so that, a year and a half later, I was promoted to the company’s flagship branch in London.

In time, though, I started to feel that there was a limit as to how far I could go in Axa. If you’ve worked in “product provider land” before, you know what I’m talking about. You see, the top accounts were only going to become available to me when a senior consultant retired or left the company – and neither event happened very often.

However, what I hadn’t banked on, was the fact that 2008 would bring with it one of the biggest financial crisis in history.

I was working in the City at the time, and I must admit, the atmosphere around me - coupled with the noise from the financial media – had somewhat shaken my confidence in the financial services sector.

The good news is, I survived the redundancy round at Axa, and actually got to work with some of those top accounts! You see, although I might not have looked ”senior” enough to be calling on important accounts, my manager had seen the quality of my work, and he trusted me enough to give me a shot at it.

And, of course, the bigger the account, the bigger the target. And the bigger the target, the bigger the corporate entertainment budget too.

So, I got to do wine tasting with Oz Clarke.

I got to have a cooking lesson with Michel Roux.

And I got to have a few beers with Andrew Strauss.

I must admit, these perks were all really good fun!

But I couldn’t help but feel that there was still something missing from my career.

You see, behind my achievements, all I was really doing was selling financial products.

Coupled with this, 2008 turned out to be the last year I would see my grandfather.

That year I went back to Brazil to spend Christmas and New Years with my family, and I saw that the formidable man who I described to you before, my hero, had unfortunately been battling against motor neurone disease.

This is a cruel disease, that slowing and painfully robs of you physical capabilities. Over a period of two years, it robbed my grandfather of his ability to walk, of his ability to talk and eventually robbed him of his life.

I remember the last time I saw him. Just before heading to the airport to catch my flight back to the UK, the whole family was gathered at my grandparent's place for me to say goodbye to everyone. And of course, everyone - including my grandfather and I - knew this would be the last time we would see each other.

In our last goodbye, I gave him a hug and a kiss on his forehead - as the disease had debilitated him so much that he couldn’t even lift his arm up to shake my hand.

These two events, the great financial crisis and the loss of my grandfather, had a huge impact on me. And on my return to the UK, I started questioning the value of my career. I started pondering on what good I was actually doing for my clients.

By now I fully realised that I wanted to do something I was passionate about and simply selling financial products wasn’t it. Some time went by, and I ended up leaving Axa to work as a consultant for another multi-national company called Metlife. We were actually doing some great work around behavioural finance in retirement planning I’m really proud of the work I did their at the time, even though our end goal was still to sell products.

And I got to work with this guy.

Joe Jordan was brought over to the UK to run some regional CPD seminars, where his message was all about inspiring financial planners to live a life of significance. Joe talked passionately about our profession’s two unique abilities.

First, that we get to provide our client’s with a lifestyle-sustaining income throughout retirement, which they won’t outlive, so that they can maintain their independence.

Second, that we can protect our client’s income, so that if they get sick, they can maintain their dignity.

Dignity and independence.

I really bought into this message. And I became passionate about getting the financial planning firms I worked with to position themselves like this to their clients.

But, again, over time, I had that feeling that something was missing from my career.

You see, I figured I could do more meaningful work by cutting out the middleman and dealing directly with clients. And that middleman happened to be me!

I was talking the talk, but I wanted to walk the walk, and in the lead up to Retail Distribution Review, my professional qualifications put me in a great position to discuss potential job opportunities with financial planning firms.

So, I took the plunge, and became a financial adviser on the 1st January 2013.

Now, you know what they say, when opportunity knocks…

...well in my case, opportunity came in the form of a room stuffed with old client files.

Looking at this now, it feels quite daunting!

I focussed on the fact that a lot of these files where from Group Personal Pension schemes which were no longer paying the firm any commission.

To get some initial traction, I went back to what I had learnt in my previous roles, and I focussed on retirement planning, contacting the HR department responsible for these pension schemes and started setting up retirement planning reviews for their older employees.

And once again, whilst perhaps I didn’t look quite “senior” enough to be dealing with retirement planning, I explained my business plan to my boss at the time, and he put his faith in my work.

And it worked!

I even had clients saying thank you for the work I did for them and their family.

To be fair, this process was still very much geared towards a traditional financial adviser approach - you know, matching a client’s need to a product solution – but, I now felt that I was actually helping the end client.

Of course, along the way, I did encounter some age-bias.

But in hindsight, I think this happened because I wasn’t making it clear to clients that my job was about more than just selling products.

I then came across this guy.

Paul Armson was running an online webinar, where he talked about the three hats you wear as a true financial planner. Paul talked passionately about restructuring your financial planning process, so that you first talk to the client about their life, then you build their financial plan, and only then do you populate it with financial products.

“You see, life is not a rehearsal”, he said, “so your first job is to help your client identify the lifestyle they want to achieve and maintain.”

Life > Plan > Products.

That webinar had a massive impact on me. You see, Paul’s message spoke to this nagging feeling I had about wanting to do something for people instead of something primarily about products.

In fact, that webinar made me realise that true financial planning was as much about my “self talk” as it was about my “client talk”.

In other words, yes, there was some restructuring that I needed to do on my financial planning process in order to deliver this service, but, I also needed to restructure how I saw myself as a professional.

Up until then, I knew logically that this was the right way of doing things, but now I also believed it too.

And this is where things began to get personal.

You know, typically, its only later in life that you realise the significance of things that came much earlier.

Well, once I came across the power of true financial planning, I looked back at my grandfather’s story, and in the most unexpected way, it was this that made me realise what I wanted to do as a financial planner.

Suddenly, my grandfather’s story converged with the job I was nearly doing.

You see, although my grandfather had suffered through this horrible disease, which robbed him of pretty much all his physical faculties, perversely, it couldn’t rob him of his dignity and independence.

The disease robbed him of his ability to walk, but he had the financial stability to get the round-the-clock healthcare support he required so that he could choose to continue to live in his home.

The disease robbed him of his ability to talk, but he had the financial stability to continue to provide support to some of my family members, who during that period, unfortunately found themselves in a time of need.

And most importantly, the disease eventually robbed him of his life, but he had the financial stability that meant that he was able to leave a meaningful legacy to his wife, my grandmother, giving her the ability to keep her dignity and independence by not having to depend on anyone to support the lifestyle they had worked so hard to achieve.

For a moment, I imagined if things had been different.

What would that have meant to him? What would that have meant to us, his family?

I can tell you, it would have been pretty devastating.

Isn’t it crazy that I’ve been in this business since 2006, and I’d never connected the dots between what I did professionally with my own family’s story? How could I have missed it?

What I Do Today

This realisation spurred me on a mission to make sure that the dignity and independence that my grandfather was able to maintain throughout his old age became available to every client of mine.

And there’s no product that does that.

The only way you can do it is by focussing on the client first, understanding the lifestyle they want to achieve and maintain for themselves and their loved ones.

At Strategic Wealth Partners, this is what we do as true financial planners. And now, running a firm that wholeheartedly embraces this way of thinking, I no longer have that feeling that something is missing.

Our clients feel very comfortable in working with a younger financial planner, because they can see the place that we're coming from - and they very quickly embrace this way of doing financial planning.

Also, by being younger than our existing clients, we are demonstrating our commitment to continuity of service, as our client’s know that I’m more likely to be around for their retirement (as I’m not going to be retiring when they do).

Can I Help You Or Someone You Know?

This is my journey up until this point.

I believe that financial planning is about people, not just products. While I have all the necessary professional qualifications and technical expertise, I know that in order for my knowledge to be meaningful to clients, it has to have a purpose.

That's why I prioritise a collaborative planning process that starts with exploring my clients' life goals, before delving into products. I believe that this approach is what's transforming financial planning into a true profession.

Instead of lecturing my clients on products and solutions, I ask open-ended questions and listen to their needs. I see my role as connecting the dots between their goals and a financial plan that brings them security, fulfilment, dignity, and independence. No other profession has the power to deliver such life-changing results!

If you’re a successful profession in your 50s who wants to change the narrative of your financial story and experience the confidence a personalised financial plan can bring, or you know someone who would, I’d love to have a chat and get to know you and show you how our services can make a difference in your life.

Contact our team and schedule a no-obligation introductory 30-minute phone call today.

Client Stories

Mark & David Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners
Mark & David Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners

"The trust and feeling of comfort has grown over the eight years since our first meeting."

Steve & Liz Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners
Steve & Liz Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners

"They are good listeners and make thoughtful recommendations that are relevant to what we are trying to accomplish in our lives."

Anne Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners
Anne Client Stories Chartered Financial Planner Strategic Wealth Partners

"Working with them on my long-term financial plan has been a source of comfort since my husband's passing."

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