Ex-solicitor switches to stockbroking
Andrew Thompson was a senior solicitor specialising in clinical negligence when he swapped law for stockbroking at three years’ PQE. He talked to us about why he is so happy with his decision and what his day to day life at work now involves.
mtl: Hi Andrew, please can you start with your legal background.
Andrew: I decided to study history and went to university with little consideration for what I was going to do afterwards. I considered a number of options including the army and accountancy, and then chose to do law as it seemed to be a solid and rewarding profession. I had no particular calling to the Law.
After my history degree at King’s College, London University, I did a two year law degree at South Bank University and then the Legal Practice Course at Store Street. I trained at Bolt Burdon solicitors and ended up staying there for five years until 2000, during which time I specialised in clinical negligence. I enjoyed the firm and the work very much.
mtl: So, what changed?
Andrew: The outlook for clinical negligence work was becoming more and more uncertain and there were real doubts as to whether legal aid would continue to be available to fund such cases. I was in my late 20’s and looking ahead to the future (marriage, children etc). I was keen to ensure that my career was on a more stable footing from a financial perspective. I considered converting to commercial law but the ‘long hours culture’ and the type of work was not appealing.
History Degree, Kings College, London University
Law Degree, South Bank University
LPC, College of Law, Store Street
Trainee Solicitor, Bolt Burdon
Senior solicitor, clinical negligence, Bolt Burdon
Moved to do stockbroking at Killik & Co
I have always been interested in the stockmarket and so began to look at careers in financial services, including private banking and stockbroking.
Once I had identified stockbroking as the area for me, I responded to an advert in the FT advertising for new recruits and was offered a job at Killik & Co, where I continue to work. At that point I resigned from my law firm and took a set of finance exams set by our regulator (which took little more than two weeks). I then joined Killik & Co and embarked on an intensive 3-month Broker Training Programme. I found the transition from lawyer to stockbroker very straightforward.
mtl: What do you do as a stockbroker and who would it suit?
Andrew: I manage investment portfolios on behalf of wealthy individuals. Essentially, I help my clients decide what investments to buy or sell. My clients tend to be lots of fun and many have had successful and interesting careers. I very much enjoy dealing with my clients – this is a true ‘people business’ - and also the ‘buzz’ of the stockmarket.
In order to pursue a career in stockbroking it is preferable (but not essential) to be degree-educated and while experience of financial services is not required, a real enthusiasm for the markets is. Client facing skills are very important. Stockbrokers tend to start work early (7.30am) but the day is usually done by about 6pm. The work can be stressful - no-one likes to lose money - but it is generally very rewarding.
mtl: Any tips?
Andrew: Law is an excellent qualification to have and many of the skills learned continue to be useful to me and I believe are likely to be transferable to a wide range of alternative careers.
Stockbroking is generally great fun, the hours are good (if you don’t mind the early starts), and we are fairly well remunerated. The downside is that job security is probably less good compared to the legal sector. I suspect that it is easier for lawyers to keep their jobs during difficult times whereas the financial services sector tends to be a bit more brutal when markets turn down.
The stress levels are at least as tough as in law because we manage people’s money so when things go wrong (as they do occasionally) we have to make some tough telephone calls. Also, it’s pretty difficult to completely get away from what’s happening in financial markets (even when you are on holiday) as the media tends to love ‘doom and gloom’ stories.
The best way to get into a career in stockbroking is to get your CV in front of the relevant human resources personnel and then be pushy... Our peers in London are probably Charles Stanley, Brewin Dolphin and Barclays Stockbrokers. Until very recently, financial services companies have been stepping up recruitment but the recent turmoil in financial markets may slow recruitment drives in the very short-term.
Generally, one starts as a trainee broker and within a year one can expect to become an assistant broker. Senior Broker / Manager status can be achieved within say 3 years and Partner / Director status can be achieved within 7 to 10 years - so the timescales are similar to law. If you are thinking about a career in stockbroking, then go and explore it. I am very happy with my move and where I work – I strongly recommend it.
mtl: Thanks Andrew.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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