I had the perfect job. I have always wanted to play my little part in supporting professionalism in the financial advice sector. At the FCA I had the scope to contribute to this – seeing the good and poor practice, communicating this to the sector and (hopefully) helping to raise standards. The FCA is a good employer and I was supported and encouraged throughout. I worked with a great bunch of people and was able to have a significant influence on what the FCA focused on and how it supervised advisers. And the pay was fairly reasonable too. So why leave?
For many years I have planned to retire from full time employment at 55 and undertake a bit of consultancy work. A couple of years ago I saw a financial planner who undertook a lifetime cash-flow exercise which indicated this plan was on track. And then, last Autumn, I thought ‘what if I get to 55, start consultancy and think “this is fun, I wish I had done this earlier”‘ So instead, I am doing it earlier to avoid any regrets.
From that point onwards, the other advantages came into focus. I could say more and not be so constrained. I could be more specific about what firms could do and even how they could do it. I could have more face time with firms – the part of the job that was most enjoyable and worthwhile. I could work more flexibly, and less! And I wouldn’t have 2.5 hours of commuting every day. The advantages were mounting up so it was time to take action.
But what about the disadvantages? For me, the main potential disadvantage is about reach and influence. At the FCA advisers listened to me and read the press reports because I was the FCA and they wanted to understand what the FCA expected. Although I have a good understanding of what the FCA expects, I am no longer the FCA so my ability to reach and influence the sector is reduced. I still want to play my part in supporting professionalism and so I am focusing on training, conference speaking and writing guides as well as consultancy. I am hoping my voice will still be heard and I can continue to support professionalism across the sector.