Profile: From telesales to top planner

Keri Carter CFPTM Chartered MCSI is a former CFP Professional of the Year who joined Broadway Financial Planning 17 years ago, but her route to a leadership role in the profession has been somewhat unconventional
by Bethan Rees

When Keri Carter CFPTM Chartered MCSI was preparing her submission for the inaugural CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Professional of the Year award back in 2014, she dug out the results of a Myers Briggs personality test she had done at school 25 years ago. At the time, she had placed little importance on it, but the submission made her reflect on her life and career, and the test’s prevalence came in to play. The results showed that, in hindsight, she had all the characteristics deemed appropriate for a financial planner, such as analytical skills and the ability to work with clients. Although it wasn’t her first career choice, Keri says the test indicates that she was destined for the job.

The 2014 awards judging panel clearly agreed, naming Keri the first CFP Professional of the Year. This is one of the highlights of her working life, she says. “I think awards are always important from a client and team perspective but it was particularly special for me on a personal level too,” she says, adding that it was a light bulb moment when she realised clients liked her for who she was.

“While you might believe you’re really good, having that affirmation from an external body is great. Everyone has a bit of an identity crisis in some shape or form, and I think going through the awards process and emerging as a confident person is probably a fairly big achievement as well. To reach that point is a happy space to be in."
Top of her gameFour years on from her award win, Keri is the managing director, majority shareholder and only financial planner out of six members of staff (whose roles range from book-keeper to paraplanner) at Broadway Financial Planning. She has spent the past few years buying out her former partner and founder of Broadway Financial Planning, Simon Williamson, as part of an agreed long-term succession plan. 

Since 2016, she has also been a CISI IFP Forum Committee member (Financial Planning Committee). Here she helps to identify areas where improvements can be made in delivering financial planning to members and consumers. 

Now at the top of her game, Keri looks back to where it all began. “I started at Endsleigh Insurance, based in Cheltenham, in the telesales unit. It allowed me to deal with client enquiries in an objective way and not take anything too personally.”  Here she received training in personal insurances, which gave her the appetite to pursue a career in financial services. She moved on to another insurance firm in Cheltenham before finishing her stint in the sector at Aspey Lawrence. Here she was an account executive, specialising in commercial insurance for motor trades and building contractors, and training was carried out in-house. She learnt how do deal with clients face-to-face, how to assess risk within a commercial business and how to discuss pricing with clients. On leaving there, Keri had what she calls her “career crisis”.

“I wasn’t sure where my career was going and ended up doing lots of different jobs,” she says. Then she happened to be invited to Broadway Financial Planning’s PA’s leaving party. The invitation came from Simon, whose co-director was a former colleague of Keri’s from her time in the insurance broking world.

Keri grabbed the bull by the horns and asked Simon to take her on at Broadway Financial Planning as an office manager, a role that would provide the foundation for her fulfilling career. Initially, Simon thought the position would not be suitable for her, he thought she was going to demand a higher salary than he could pay. However, they came to a salary agreement. “Within my first month I had attended an Institute of Financial Planning (IFP) conference and taken on the role of branch chairman for Cotswolds IFP. Simon was president of the IFP at the time and so I was able to learn about financial planning and meet inspiring people such as Nick Cann (former IFP CEO) and Paul Etheridge CFPTM Chartered FCSI quickly. 

Keri Carter's CV

2013–present: Broadway Financial Planning, managing director

2007–2012: Broadway Financial Planning, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER

2001–2007: Broadway Financial Planning, office manager/paraplanner

2000–2001: Media Training Masterclasses, operational support

1999–2000: Churchill Office Solutions, print management specialist

1998–1999: Ward Evans, commercial insurance account executive

1993–1997: Aspey Lawrence & Co, account executive

1989–1993: Hollands Insurance Brokers, assistant branch manager 

1987–1989: Endsleigh Insurance Company, telesales assistant 
“I joined with no financial planning experience and Simon helped my training through in-house learning, examinations and support as a mentor. I quickly recognised that I wanted to pursue a career as a financial planner and so developed the role into that of a paraplanner and in due course became a financial planner, shadowing Simon with his clients. This took approximately four years and during that time the clients became familiar with me, which certainly helped.”
Changes and challengesDuring her 17 years in the financial planning sector, Keri has witnessed many changes. One of the most significant of recent times, she says, is the increasing rate of consolidation taking place within the sector. She believes firms that survive this process will look to provide services in a different way. “I imagine planners will demonstrate their value through the personal touch and that clients will continue to be prepared to pay for this rather than a generic service which fits all,” says Keri.

That might partly include the use of robo-advisers, but Keri believes this automated advice can’t replace the human element of the job and this is where the role of financial planners, in particular, will continue to grow and become stronger.

“A robo-adviser can advise someone to put £200 into an ISA or save towards their pension, but as financial planners, we always look ahead and assess the full range of opportunities open to a client,” she says. “In that respect, there is space for both, depending on the client’s requirement.”

Linked to the rise of robo-advisers is clients’ growing focus on the fees they are paying and the value they are getting in return. With providers of robo-advice positioning themselves as low-fee alternatives to financial planners and advisers, Keri believes the sector needs to be increasingly transparent about delivering and demonstrating value for money. 

In terms of challenges ahead for the financial planning sector, Keri points to an imminent large-scale exit of older planners from the profession as they reach retirement age. While that will allow younger planners to come up through the ranks and carve out a place for themselves, it does mean the sector needs to find a way of retaining the expertise and knowledge of those who are leaving the profession.

Despite the many big-picture challenges, Keri says her clients make working life very enjoyable. “We don’t have problematic clients and we don’t have issues that make it more difficult to come into work. We’re incredibly blessed with the type of clients we have.”

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Published: 28 Feb 2018
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