From a career in law to self employment as a financial adviser

Rachel Stewart talks about her move from a career in law to retraining as a financial adviser.

Business Finance


Rachel Stewart worked as a lawyer for 15 years and wasn’t sure that it was really fulfilling her desire to have a sense of purpose and control over her life. But it wasn’t until she had her two children and her request for flexible working was declined that she decided she needed to make a change. Now a financial adviser she has been able to work more flexibly, but also forge her own path, offering advice in a more personal, approachable way.

Rachel [pictured below right], who is based in East Lothian, had studied to be a lawyer at university, but didn’t find the work very fulfilling. She says: “Working in law I found myself sitting behind a desk often doing work for other people which I felt didn’t deliver a huge amount of purpose. I couldn’t always see the benefits of the work I was doing. It was easy to feel that I’d been put in a box and unable to spread my wings in this career. Whilst I was ambitious and career driven, I knew that this career wasn’t going to hold me for another 15 years. Having my two children gave me the impetus to change direction.”

After her request to reduce her hours at work to four days a week was turned down by her employer, she knew it was time to make a change. She decided to set off down a new path, to look for a career that offered more flexibility and one which she hoped would also provide the sense of fulfilment that she had lacked in law.

Retraining in financial advice

Rachel’s career in law crossed over with the financial services sector multiple times. Working within the legal and financial services industries, Rachel was able to build up a strong base of contacts – and it was one of those connections that led her to consider financial advice as a career.

She explains: “A contact and friend of mine had a large financial advice practice under the St James’s Place Financial partnership. He offered me the chance to shadow him for the day to get a flavour for what the day to day of financial advice involved. During the day, I witnessed some difficult conversations between him and his clients, but rather than be put off, I found myself further drawn to the profession. While I was listening, my head was whirring with ideas of how I would handle the conversations, what I’d do differently and what value I could add. It was an exciting prospect to be able to help another person, perhaps even somebody not too dissimilar from myself, who just wants to make the best of what they’ve got. After shadowing for the day, I was hooked.”

Rachel signed up to the St James’s Place Financial Advisor Academy in June 2019. She graduated after six months, qualified and with the skills and ongoing support, such as mentoring and contacts, to launch her own financial advice business. She says she is not afraid to admit that there were a few ‘rabbit in headlights’ moments, but says: “I just needed to pick myself up and get on with it – after all your own success is down to you. For me, it was an unnerving, yet exhilarating place to be.”

Covid challenges

One of Rachel’s first challenges, which at the time of graduating she couldn’t have foreseen, was operating a brand new business during a pandemic, complete with national lockdowns. Many of the skills that Rachel honed at the Academy were delivering advice in-person, yet she suddenly needed to master running meetings virtually. As all in-person networking events were also cancelled Rachel needed to launch her business via online groups which she researched diligently.

Rachel’s first port of call was to expand her network of contacts. She quickly devised a plan, developing a powerpoint presentation to present via webinars which she’d host free of charge. She contacted multiple social media groups as well as established groups such as Women in Banking and Finance and offered to run the webinars to their members. The initiative was successful and resulted in many referrals and direct clients that sought her advice on a 1:1 basis.

She states: “In a lot of ways, the pandemic actually did me a favour. I knew that I wanted my business style to be less about pinstripe suits and briefcases – something that the industry is traditionally known for – and more approachable. So rather than venturing into corporate offices to deliver advice, my clients like me to either meet them at their house, or online via a video call. This means that I can be more readily available to my clients with the added bonus that it affords me the flexibility that I need in my family life. I often find myself joining video calls with clients at 9pm after I have put the children to bed. It suits both parties perfectly.”

Another way that Rachel responded to the pandemic was the decision to start the process of becoming chartered in January 2021 whilst at home in a national lockdown, home-schooling and looking after her children. She saw this as a time to be proactive and plan for the future. Rachel’s background working in law within the financial services industry benefited her in this endeavour as there is a requirement to have at least five years’ sector experience. This was taken into consideration and after studying and taking numerous exams over a period of 14 months, Rachel received the good news that she was chartered in April 2022.

Flexible working and success based on quality not size

Rachel has become used to working from home, however she has access to SJP’s offices and meeting rooms across the UK, so buying a bricks and mortar office isn’t high on her agenda, although it is something that she may consider one day. However, she quickly realised that she would need additional support in running her business so that she could keep her focus on finding new clients and servicing existing ones. She was able to tap into SJP’s list of recommended suppliers who helped her to appoint virtual paraplanners and administrative support.

Taking stock of the last two years, Rachel says: “Success to me is to have a good balance of clients that I am able to service effectively without spreading myself too thinly. Having a reputation for offering an exemplary service is what I would deem as a success, rather than rapid or vast business growth. I am fortunate that soon I may have too many clients, in which case I’ll look to either take on another financial advisor or merge with another practice.

“Most of all I get a great deal of satisfaction, fulfilment and enjoyment from what I do. The added bonus is I get to take my children to school every single day.”

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