New VoicesApr 28 2023

'Proving yourself as a 22-year old adviser isn’t easy'

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'Proving yourself as a 22-year old adviser isn’t easy'
Melissa Ellis, a financial adviser at HL Financial feels the pressure to prove herself as a young women in a male dominated industry.

Being a financial adviser at 22 years of age comes with its challenges, but Melissa Ellis has chosen to instead focus on the positives her youth presents.

According to FCA figures, just 8 per cent of all financial advisers are under the age of 30. 

Ellis, who qualified as a financial adviser last summer, said being young can be difficult with prospective clients sometimes linking age with experience.

“I try not to dwell on it too much and let my knowledge do the talking," Ellis said.

“I’ve had clients say ‘is your boss going to sit in on the meeting with us?’ and on a lot of occasions he does at the moment because I’m starting off. 

"If that is what they want then [my boss] should join because whatever makes the client feel better is what I like.

“It can be a little frustrating because obviously you work so hard to get to where you are and I am confident in my knowledge, but it just comes down to building trust.

"The longer I am here, I am sure it will grow," she added.

Ellis decided a career in financial advice was for her after doing a work experience placement in the office of her father's IFA while she was studying business at college. 

“I saw the work they did with my dad helping him towards his retirement and I thought I would love to do that - I would love to help people and add value to someone’s life and show them how much they could gain in retirement or through investments,” Ellis said.

Ballroom dancing days

Initially though, Ellis was split between pursuing a career in advice or following her passion as a professional ballroom dancer.

“I was confident that was what I would end up doing, but it got really tough to find dance partners. When I went to college it was very much: do I go down an academic route or do I put everything into dancing.

"I’m glad I chose to become an IFA, but I definitely miss the dancing at points."

While Ellis said she used to dance "day in and day out", she has put her love for it on the back burner while she focuses on building her career in financial advice. 

Ellis took the CII route to qualification and completed the exams alongside working in an advice firm over a two-year period. 

I’ve had comments like ‘oh are you support staff’ or how long have you been qualified

“I’ve given myself until age 26 to become chartered so with exams and dancing it might be too much,” Ellis said. 

"In terms of the exams, I expected them to be difficult but some were more so than I expected. 

“I failed R01 back in 2019 and it really knocked my confidence. My employer, Rob, told me to take a step back, try R05 because it was a bit easier and then see how I got on. I think I really found my way with that. 

"I found my revision technique and learned how to make it engaging. After that I was really lucky, I had a good run. Not that I didn’t have to work hard for it, but after that it all sort of fell into place," Ellis said.

Since then, Ellis has been learning on the job and, after four months of initial training, spends a lot of her time trying to build up a client bank.

Proving yourself

Reflecting on her experience of the industry so far, Ellis finds the work rewarding but sometimes struggles with the pressure to prove to others that she is qualified.

“Sometimes I will go to events and perhaps other attendees aren’t expecting me. I’ve had comments like ‘are you support staff’ or 'how long have you been qualified', so I’m trying to tackle that at the moment.

“I had a lady say to me last week, it’s really refreshing to have a young lady that is going to be with me from the start to the end of my journey.

"And I’m getting really good feedback, so it is a good industry to be in," Ellis added.

In Ellis's view, she would “100 per cent encourage other young people to consider advice as a career”.

“It’s definitely not one where you can sit back and hope good things just come to you.

"You have to put a lot of work into it but it is very rewarding. I’m still learning every day. I’m only 22 at the moment but I know the experience I’m gaining will be really valuable later on."

In terms of how she deals with some people's perception of her age and experience, Ellis said: “I always say, no one asks a doctor if they are prescribing the right tablets to you if you are ill and it’s a little bit like that."

"I’m very passionate about what I do and it is a very regulated industry for a reason. We would never recommend something that isn’t good for someone.

“So I’m just trying to let my knowledge do the talking."

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