I began my career as a policeman. Looking back, changing careers from policing to being a financial adviser was a crazy thing to do. But the journey was exciting and it gave me a broad set of skills that I still use every day.
I’d spent about 12 years working in the police force and had never considered doing anything else. At the same time, I’d always had a passion for financial markets, so I started running a share club for about 30 of my colleagues. We’d all put money in and met monthly to pick stocks. Then one day, someone brought a financial planner along to the meeting. The next day he rang and asked me something that really shocked me – why are you a policeman when you’re so passionate about financial markets?
It was like a light globe went on. He encouraged me to go back and study finance, which I did part-time while still working as a policeman. When I finished university in 2002, I stepped away from policing and have never looked back.
While they’re very different jobs, at the core of being a policeman and a financial adviser is a passion for helping people. Being able to make a difference to people is what really motivates me.
What has always got me out of bed is hearing people’s stories, understanding what they’re trying to achieve and then helping them to get there quicker. As a policeman, this often involved having difficult conversations with people and helping them to get where they need to go by being authentic and really honest. These weren’t easy conversations and sometimes were particularly challenging.
For example, I would often have conversations with people who had committed a crime. If they were genuinely remorseful, it was often a really difficult situation for them to deal with. But there was a journey that they had to go on – they had to be processed, charged and then go to court. I learnt that sometimes you have to help people confront difficult things. But if it comes from a good place and it’s in their best interests, then you can deliver that news in a way that they’ll accept.
As a financial adviser, I also have often have difficult conversations with clients. A client may be spending too much and not saving enough. So I have to talk to them about changing their behaviour or restructuring their assets. Recently, I had a conversation with a client who lived in a massive family home. They were looking to retire and the most obvious thing for them to do was to sell the family home and downsize. This would release a substantial amount of capital and let them do all the things they wanted to do. But it was a very emotional conversation to have with them. They raised their family in that home and the idea of selling it was difficult. By being authentic and honest and offering a different point of view, I was able to help take them through that journey and get them to consider another point of view.
While I miss certain things about policing, I’ve never thought about going back. I’m helping people to live the life they desire and I find that truly rewarding.
Todd Clifford is Executive Advisor & Head of Client Experience at Viridian Advisory