After graduating from Oxford, Sophie de Rouet worked in equity sales at UBS, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch before leaving banking to become a partner at wealth management firm St. James’s Place in 2009.
Bearing in mind that St. James’s Place is hiring and you may be interested in making a similar move, we asked Sophie about the transition…
What made you decide to leave equity sales?
I had recently got married and we were starting a family. The working hours in equity sales are determined by the markets in which you work. My working day started at my desk at 6am and went on for 12hrs and I felt that I wanted more time at home to be with my family. I wanted to increase the flexibility of my working day and have more control over which hours I worked and when.
And what made you decide to join St. James Place (rather than, say, a European bank with a slower pace of life)?
A move into financial advice (and self-employment) allowed me to get flexibility in my professional life. I had been a client of St. James’s Place for all the time I was working in the City and I didn’t consider working anywhere else. You get all the advantages of being self-employed but also have the backing and support of a FTSE250 company. I genuinely believe that what St. James’s Place does for their clients, in terms of offering a carefully managed list of funds and all the due diligence that that involves, adds significant value.
Do you think banks need to do more to retain their female staff? – If so, what could they do to prevent women from leaving?
In my personal opinion, and I accept that the views on this differ widely, if you decide to pursue a career in the City you accept that it is a challenging and male dominated environment. That is never going to change and more women will drop out than men once they start families and want to change their lifestyle so banks will never retain the same percentage of female employees as they do men. I don’t believe that you can prevent women from leaving the industry because of the demands that it places on their time. I do believe that pay inequality is an ongoing issue and likely influences some women’s choices.
What’s been the most difficult thing to adjust to at St James’ Place?
Losing the comfort blanket of a monthly salary, getting paid every month whether you’ve had a good or a bad one, and a good benefits package. By its very nature the renumeration in this industry is very lumpy. Over time as your business matures this starts to even out, but at the beginning it is a challenge. You can have a lot of business in the pipeline but have very little control over when exactly it will happen.
What kinds of people are most suited to making the transition to becoming a private client advisor?
You are requalifying in a new industry, you need to be prepared to put the work in, take the exams and ensure that you are sufficiently qualified and informed to offer people the correct advice. I feel the responsibility of advising private clients much more heavily than when I was advising institutional clients as you are looking after their own money and you need to be prepared to accept this.
And what kinds of people will struggle?
If you struggle for motivation without a structured line management system around you, then it may not be the right choice. It is your own business to make of it what you will. The biggest challenge is building up your client list. Everybody does it differently, but you need some clear ideas about how you are going to do it. And then five more!