Christina Clegg Financial Planning Services Limited (CCFPS) is the company Christina established in 2016 to apply for direct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority. That authorisation was granted in July 2016 and CCFPS became the main trading company from that point, However, Christina has been involved in financial services for over 30 years now!
Christina left St Hilda’s Girls School in Burnley in 1986, with a handful of O Levels and took a job under the old YTS Scheme working at HFC Bank in Burnley as a receptionist. She soon realised that she enjoyed dealing with customers and quickly got to grips with banking administration.
Christina decided that she could do more than administration and applied for a branch sales role at Avco Trust in Burnley. In her new role, Christina was responsible for arranging personal and secured loans as well as certain insurance products. She was extremely successful, and the Burnley branch was awarded branch of the year in 1990.
Once again, Christina thought she could take a step further and in 1993 she joined the old National & Provincial Building Society (N&P), again in Burnley, but this time as a trainee Financial Adviser. This new role meant that Christina had to pass a series of specialist examinations to become a fully qualified Financial Adviser, which she achieved in 1994.
As a Financial Adviser, Christina was responsible for advising the N&P’s customers on a range of regulated products, including investments, pensions and protection. Christina soon became an invaluable member of the N&P team and worked as an Adviser at the main Burnley branch.
In 1996 the N&P was taken over by Abbey National and for the next four years, Christina continued to work as a Financial Adviser at several branches including Nelson, Colne and Briercliffe.
In 2000 a new opportunity arose within Abbey National and Christina moved out of the branch network and into the Corporate Sales Team, to work on the introduction of the new Stakeholder Pension Scheme to local business. This role also involved Christina giving advice to businesses on Employee Benefit schemes.
In 2002 however, Abbey decided to close the Corporate Sales Team, and this meant that Christina had to decide what career path to follow next. She decided to move back into advising and in early 2003 she joined the Halifax as a Financial Adviser.
Initially, she worked across a few local branches including Burnley and Accrington and later became a roving Locum Adviser, working across the whole of the Halifax’s North West branch network, from Liverpool to Carlisle.
In 2005, Christina was promoted into a Supervisory role. Whilst still providing face to face advice to clients, she was also responsible for training new advisers, supervising existing advisers and checking the quality of advice being provided.
It was in this role that Christina really started to think about her long-term future and what she wanted to achieve. Working as a Supervisor meant that Christina had more interaction with senior management within Halifax and she began to become more and more uncomfortable with their approach. It seemed to Christina that the Bank was moving away from advice and into a sales driven culture. There was increasingly less focus on client reviews and more focus on “selling” clients new products, sometimes with little emphasis on whether they were the right products. Added to that, Advisers were being told to use more automated tools to evaluate client needs, which meant that advice was becoming increasingly less personal.
Having provided personal advice to her clients since 1994, these new processes became increasingly difficult for Christina to accept and in January 2009, after 15 years of advising in the branch networks for both Abbey National and Halifax, Christina took the decision to go it alone and become a self-employed Independent Financial Adviser.
Looking back this was the best decision Christina ever made and her thoughts at the time were reflected recently by Tony Hazell former editor of Money Mail, who said – “I did not weep a single tear for the end of so called advice churned out via banks and building societies. That was not advice. It was often little more than a high-pressure sales operation delivering massive payments to banks while staff were placed under intolerable strain and had their morals stretched by questionable incentive schemes. Customers financial wellbeing was never the priority and we are well rid of such operations.”
It was not an easy decision for Christina to leave and involved a great deal of personal risk. Married with two children at secondary school, there was no guarantee that Christina would be able to earn a living on her own. She set up a website to advertise her new business and quickly realised that there were lots of local people who had also become unhappy with the way the mainstream Banks were working and were looking for independent alternatives. Word started to spread and soon Christina was up to speed and working as hard as ever, but this time as an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA).
To work as an IFA, Christina either had to become directly authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority or become authorised via a Network. Christina chose to use Stirling House Financial Services as her Network, which meant that they provided her with the back-office solutions necessary to provide advice and held her authorisation. Stirling House were based in Malvern and had no other advisers in the North West, which meant that Christina was free to operate across the area.
Retail Distribution Review changes in 2013
In 2012 the new Retail Distribution Review (RDR) changes were on the horizon for all Financial Advisers. RDR meant that all Financial Advisers had to re-sit all their financial services examinations in order to re-qualify as Financial Advisers. The deadline for qualification was set as 31/12/2012.
Christina was fully committed to continuing as a Financial Adviser and went through the re-qualification process via the Chartered Insurance Institute. Many Financial Advisers however, decided not to re-qualify and the industry lost almost 60% of all Advisers in 2012. Many of these had worked for the major Banks and Building Societies, who almost all decided to stop providing advice on regulated products. This was in part because of the difficulty of the re-qualification process, but also because RDR also brought a major change in the way Financial Advice worked, with the end of commission-based arrangements.
Rather than taking a commission, the of arrival RDR meant that Financial Advisers had to change to a fee charging structure, which was intended to be fairer to clients. Many Advisers and Financial Institutions felt that this would be too difficult to implement and would seriously reduce the amount of money they had been making from commission.
Christina had quite the opposite view. She believed wholeheartedly in the new charging structure which was much clearer and fairer to clients. Whilst many Advisers worried about telling clients how much they were charging for advice, Christina embraced the opportunity to be more transparent. She has no problem telling clients how much her fees are and believes the service she provides is not only value for money, but also much fairer than most other Financial Adviser Firms in the market. (see our articles, How much do IFA’s charge for advice, for example.)
However, the introduction of RDR also affected a number of adviser businesses, including Stirling House which meant that they could no longer provide Christina with the IFA Network support that she required.
So, in 2013, Christina moved Networks across to Go IFA, based in Bristol. Shortly after moving, Christina took Josh Brooks on board in 2014 as her first member of staff, to help her with the increasing amount of administration required with the growing business.
Direct Authorisation – Christina Clegg Financial Planning Services Limited
The business continued to grow, with increasing numbers of new clients contacting Christina for advice, both through her website, through recommendations – over 1 in 3 clients – and through the Vouched For website.
Christina was one of the first IFA’s to join the Vouched For website, where clients are encouraged to review and rate their advisers. With over 150 client reviews Christina has been in the Top 200 Rated IFA’s on Vouched for in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and now 2020.The 2020 award saw Christina placed as the 16th highest rated Financial Adviser in the UK based on the number of client reviews, out of 828 Financial Adviser on the Vouched For platform – some achievement!
The consistent growth in the number of clients, inevitably meant that Christina would outgrow the need to be supported by a Network. So, in late 2015, she started the process of putting together an application to be directly authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. That authorisation was granted in July 2016 and CCFPS became the main trading company from that point.
Since then, the company has continued to grow. In October 2016, Adele Cowgill joined the business as an IFA, bringing a wealth of financial services experience from over 20 years with Barclays. Adele’s specialist qualifications also meant that CCFPS could be authorised to provide advice in the specialist area of defined benefit (or final salary) transfers, as well as providing long term care advice, and advice on mortgages and equity release.
At the same time, Sophie Lund joined the business to provide further IFA support and in January 2018, to support both Christina and Adele.
The business continues to grow and in September 2018 we brought Leah Makin on board as an apprentice administrator supported by Nelson & Colne College. In October Sue Hoole joined the team on a part-time basis to assist with administration. Sue has over 40 year’s experience in financial services which takes our overall experience to over 150 years!
In December 2018 we finally moved into our newly converted offices in Barrowford and on 18th January 2018 the new office was officially opened by Andrew Stephenson MP who was joined by Christina’s good friend Michelin star chef Tom Parker of The White Swan, who provided canapes to the 40 or so guests.
In October 2019 we were delighted to appoint Adele as a director of the business. Adele had become an intergral part of the team and it made perfect sense for her to take on board a more integrated role within the business. Adele then became a Chartered Financial Adviser in January 2020.
In March 2020 we appointed Sue Evans to our administration team. Sue has over 30 years’ experience in business administration and is a real asset to the team. Later that month Covid-19 struck, and the company was forced into lockdown. We furloughed the staff, but the directors were able to continue to come into the office every day to make sure that all our clients received the service and advice they needed at that difficult time. By June lockdown restrictions started to ease and all the staff were able to safely return to the office.
At the beginning of July, we were sad to see Josh leave the company. Josh had been with us since October 2014. Over 5 ½ years Josh had seen us grow from just him and Christina to eight staff and our new offices with growth of our client’s assets under advice to over £50 million. Josh had completed his financial adviser qualifications earlier in the year and decided to make a move away from the area and over to Liverpool, we wish him well. At the same time Sue Hoole also decided to step down and take a well-deserved rest – we were grateful for all the efforts Sue put in over the last two years.
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