COMMENT: How I left finance in my late 40s and became a consultant instead

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COMMENT: How I left finance in my late 40s and became a consultant instead

Taking back control

As the future of working in the City of London becomes ever more unclear, you - like me - may be seduced by the idea of working for yourself. Good luck, but you need to go in with your eyes open.

After a long career in portfolio management, I now work primarily an independent consultant/adviser. I’m lucky to find myself in a hot area at present (machine learning. - I am an applied mathematician by training.) I also get involved in some postgraduate teaching, am engaged as a non-executive director and undertake some pro-bono activities (particularly good for the soul.)

If you want to quit your day job, you need to think very carefully too about your clients and your value proposition. You don't want your current employer accusing you of stealing custom, but if you can line up a client or two whilst you remain in a full time job, it will help a lot. 

Personally, I devote a lot of my time to sales and marketing. I never turn down a speaking request. - I’m not very good placing my foot in the door, but I am very comfortable in front of an audience of any size. And as I'm not a natural salesperson, I've teamed up with someone who is - he takes rejection as easily as he enjoys success.

I've also dusted-off my professional industry fellowships and memberships and added a few more. People love badges. I'm based in the UK and I retain my CF30 FCA authorisation through an appointed representative arrangement with a friend’s firm. I can therefore present myself as something more than your run-of-the-mill consultant.

There are definite positives to self-employment. I do excellent varied work that others value and use and the income I make is a secondary consideration. Feeling the flow, focus and satisfaction of working at something I’ve chosen to do is truly liberating, and relying on myself creates genuine self-regard.  Suddenly work doesn’t feel like a chore.

There are negatives to going it alone too. Work can be sporadic; sometimes there are famines. The loss of a stable and substantial income is worrying. So is the loss of status; you will have no personal assistant and no big name on your business card. For this reason, I strongly advise you against becoming a consultant on a whim.  The erratic nature of your income means you will need deep pockets - the deeper the better. Therefore, save your bonuses while you're in work. Prepare your family for a more slender lifestyle; talk to your wife (mine isn't entirely enamoured of my choice). 

I’m far too young to retire and, speaking honestly, I do still need some form of income. If all else fails, I may have to return to the corporate world (I understand that Deutsche Bank is hiring). I hope not, but if I have to return to corporate slavery once again, I will have learnt a lot about myself and should be able to present myself in a stronger light. Good luck if you decide to take the plunge. A change is as good as a rest.

Richard Andrew is the pseudonym of a former London portfolio manager now at home in Surrey.

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