The pathways for second careerists are growing and people from different backgrounds continue to make the transition into financial advice.
International Adviser has reported extensively on the number of ex-sports stars that have become financial advisers.
But the armed forces also have a close association with the sector and many people with an army background have seen the benefits of joining the profession.
For Todd Jones, chief investment officer at US-based Gratus Capital, this was no different. He began his financial advice training while he was an infantry officer in the US army, where he served in various capacities including rifle platoon leader and executive officer.
During his service, Jones lived in Germany and led soldiers through combat tours in Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq before making his way as a financial adviser with ML Stern & Co, where he specialised in fixed income investments, and a portfolio manager with US Trust.
Going from the US army to financial services is a big jump, and despite many taking the plunge, there is not an immediate connection between the two careers.
Jones spoke to IA about his professional journey.
“I’m not sure a career in finance is for everyone,” he said. “Individual interests will ultimately drive where someone will end up. That said, I was attracted to the finance industry for a few reasons.
“On the investment research side of the industry, you are measured every day. The stock market is one of the most competitive places to try and earn a living. You are constantly reminded that smart people are all around you.
“Portfolios that I oversee price every day, and we find out if our decisions are working or not in a real-time cadence. Additionally, if you are a person seeking knowledge or insight on a continual basis, financial markets have almost unlimited new avenues to explore.
“On the advisory side of the industry, you can help people achieve their goals and objectives in measurable ways. It’s very fulfilling to see how financial situations evolve for our clients, and even improve, based on recommendations I made.”
Everyone’s story about how they ended up in financial advice is different. Some have a seamless path and others found it hard to get into the industry.
But how was it for Jones?
“My journey to a registered investment adviser (RIA) firm took a little bit of time to get to because RIAs tend to be small companies seeking out specific skills or people,” he said.
“I started out in the sector on the advisory side, then moved to the portfolio management side, and now I’m in a leadership role overseeing the investment team.
“I would say, however, that most of my peers who have made it to RIAs tend to have started out at big financial institutions first.
“The good thing about the financial services sector is that many jobs/roles and companies are pretty structured. If you like structure and understanding exactly what your responsibilities are, I think you’ll do fine.”
Ex-soldiers are like sports stars, in which they have transferable skills that can make them a real asset in the financial advice sector.
Jones said that the “discipline, determination, personal organisation and team dynamics” of a soldier all apply on a day-to-day basis in the advice industry.
Second careerists can offer a lot to advice firms and but they need help to get there.
Jones added: “There could definitely be more education given to employers about the benefits of hiring former military members because I think there’s still a big misunderstanding from the employer side on skills translation.
“I know there are a number of employers that have really interesting military recruiting programmes in the US, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and General Electric.”
‘Don’t get discouraged’
Words of wisdom can be vital to help second careerists, and Jones gave his insights on what they should do.
“I think the most important thing to understand is that everyone’s journey will be different,” he said. “Don’t get discouraged if things aren’t happening fast enough because it will take time to re-establish yourself in a new career field.
“Another thing I’d mention is don’t think you are ‘coming late to the game’. Early on, I always had a nagging feeling that I was behind my peer group.
“Turns out, most of my peer group were doing other jobs as well, and usually, they weren’t nearly as impactful as what military members are doing in our early 20s.
“Never stop learning or seeking out new subject areas to learn about. You never know when that knowledge will come in handy and it makes you more valuable.”