"I think there is an obligation for strong women in our sector to 'pay it forward' for future generations."
Welcome to our second How I Got Here interview - a series of pieces with women in financial services designed to shed light on a variety of career paths and experiences.
To celebrate the voting period of our 2020 Women's Recognition Awards, our first interviews are with previous winners of the FRWRAs, and this time we caught up with Ann-Marie Atkins.
FR: What’s your current role and how long have you been in it?
I joined Tilney back in 2010 and, in 2016, I became the first female managing partner in the company. On a day-to-day basis, I look after my existing and prospective clients, work with other professionals and work with my team on the recruitment for my region (the North West). I am also tasked with leading, influencing and sharing best practice not just to the region but across the business so that as a business and as individuals we can create a better client experience and potential outcome.
It’s a busy role (to put it lightly!) but my main focus at all times is to provide the best possible advice to my clients and to make sure that as a business, we all aim to do the same. While I’m driven to do this myself, I know that in order to produce the best possible outcomes for our clients, collaboration is key, regardless of gender. I am a huge believer in leading by example.
FR: How did you first get into the financial services industry and why?
I started as an administrator at the age of 21 in a financial services firm. Soon after, I realised that I wanted to progress towards becoming a financial planner so I moved into paraplanning to get to grips with the technical aspects of planning. I felt a drive to do this as I wanted to influence the advice being offered to clients and enhance the overall client experience.
At the same time, I completed the advanced exams in my own time and at my own cost. I began applying my technical expertise into reports for the benefit of clients and to help the planners I was working for increase their understanding of the available options and their benefits.
I then moved on to another company as a broker consultant, working directly with independent financial advisers – influencing them to work with us and building up their technical knowledge. Just from speaking to some of these advisers, I could see gaps in their knowledge which had a big impact on the advice that they gave to their clients.
I wanted to be more involved with the end result for clients so began to work hard on developing my communication skills and continued to study in order to achieve Chartered status, as I could see this was an important title to have when working with the professionals market. I began delivering face-to-face advice to clients in 2007 when I also achieved Certified and Fellow status.
FR: What achievement are you proudest of in your career to date?
I think there is an obligation for strong women in our sector to 'pay it forward' for future generations. In a male-dominated industry, it’s my duty to encourage and mentor young talent and people who genuinely show an interest into getting into financial planning.
Recently, I went back to my old secondary school to give a talk about my career. I had an hour to speak to sixty 15-16 year olds about what my role entails, the route I took to get there and the determination and resilience required to succeed in a competitive industry. At the end of it, I asked if any of them would want to work in finance. I’m extremely pleased to say that at least 50 put their hands up, and there were many questions! I have given support to a number of leavers and provided further careers advice to my old school, along with another local school, on the subject of females entering this industry and routes to achieve this.
Within the company, I regularly speak to employees and teams about career progression. Outside of the office, I meet with external contacts and even the children of clients who are looking for career advice. As a result, I have introduced four females into our business who were not previously in the industry. Bringing in this new pool of talent is definitely one of my proudest achievements.
FR: Who’s had the biggest impact on your career to date?
My husband, Colin Atkins. Since we got together and he has supported and believed in me, encouraged me to challenge myself, and I have gone from strength to strength.
FR: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
The client comes first, and top class service is key. If you do the right thing good things will happen.
FR: If you had to sum up working in financial services in three words, what would they be?
Rewarding, challenging, and evolving.
To nominate yourself or a woman in financial services for a Women’s Recognition Award, please visit www.frwra.co.uk.