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10 minutes with Emma

This month Emma became Director and shareholder at Barnaby Cecil. 

Emma is a paraplanner and the main research analyst at Barnaby Cecil. As you know, she’s also been an integral part of our success, and there wouldn’t be a Barnaby Cecil without her. 

But until now, she’s been much more ‘behind the scenes’. We thought it was time to put Emma into the spotlight so you can find out a bit more about her….

How did you start your career and meet Tom?

I studied finance and investment at university and knew I wanted to go into financial planning. 

My first job was in a boutique wealth management firm in Birmingham, but I decided I really wanted to move to London. 

The opportunities were great at that time, and I was lucky enough to be offered four different roles! It was while I was deliberating on those that I went to one final interview, and that was with Tom at Smith & Williamson.

Tom had just started there and was looking for someone to join his team, and we got on straight away. It was clear we shared the same vision and philosophy. I accepted the job and we worked together there for four years.

Describe the philosophy you share

We believe a truly valuable service should be led by financial planning. A plan needs to be put in place before the client can benefit from our technical input and optimisation.

Our investment philosophy is also aligned, so we built a portfolio range that we would want to personally invest in, which is based on decades of empirical research.

Why did you both decide to set up Barnaby Cecil?

I’m by nature a very cautious person, but equally, when Tom suggested the idea of setting up our own firm, I said ‘yes’ immediately. Something felt very right about us going down this route – having control of our ideas and creating a service we think is truly valuable. 

What changes have you been able to make?

We’re now completely paperless, which was a huge thing for both of us, me especially because I’d be printing so much paper and clients would receive these big packs that they’d have to then keep somewhere themselves.

It was an absolute nightmare. 

But one of the first things we did was we created Barnaby Cecil the App, which means all the paperwork clients have with us – as well as documents such as Wills etc – can be kept in one place – they can upload and download these all themselves, referring back when they need to, which makes their lives so much easier. 

We also benefit from outsourcing certain tasks to other experts, and we’re also better able to listen and act on ideas we see and hear about from others. 

What’s it like at Barnaby Cecil now compared to three years ago?

When we first started, we knew what we wanted to provide for clients, but we didn’t know how to articulate that clearly. This is a problem industry wide - the benefits of financial advice are notoriously hard to articulate. We wanted to change that and make our services crystal clear.

Having worked on our offering in detail, we can now describe the different services we provide. There’s Wealthmap, Navigate and Barnaby Cecil the App. Soon we’ll be launching Momentum, our value-added ongoing service.

How do you and Tom work together?

We’re lucky because we get on really well, but have opposite skill sets!

I get into the technical aspects of a plan and the details whereas he's great at explaining those things to clients. He’s been client facing for many years now and he’s really good at explaining concepts, and asking the right questions of clients - things they may never have thought about before which really helps them to see different directions their life could go in.

What do you love about your role?

I’m a natural planner - I plan most things in my life! I love being able to help to plan out someone else’s future and know that there are things I can tweak to make it better; then being able to see them develop from a starting point through to achieving their objectives. 

In particular, the NHS pension reports are great for me to get into because it’s such a complex scheme. Navigating that for busy medics and being able to give them the facts and figures they need can materially help them. It’s also nice to be able to frame these complexities positively to people – for example, on the one hand, there’s a lot of tax to pay, but once you’ve pointed out that it’s because that person’s pension and tax-free cash has gone up, there’s a positive message there.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love travel and adventure. When Tom and I left our jobs to set up Barnaby Cecil we had a long period of garden leave, so I took the opportunity to explore Asia. I went to 11 different countries in total, spending three months in India, a month trekking in Nepal, and covering Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia among others. 

With lockdown over I’ve started planning my next adventure and will be celebrating my 30th birthday by travelling to Costa Rica for three weeks.

What does being a director of the company mean for you and your clients?

Because we have very different skill sets, Tom and I look at things from very different angles, which means we can explore situations from multiple perspectives before we come to a decision about something. This means clients have the benefit of two people completely interrogating scenarios for them on their behalf. 

We have a very good dynamic which allows us to bounce off each other quite well and we challenge each other too.

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