From the Marines to Finance

“I don’t miss the long deployments away from my family.”

Image of James Knight
From the Marines to Finance

James Knight wanted to be able to put down roots and spend more time with his loved ones. So when a friend told him about a business model that offered retraining, a clear purpose, and the work–life balance he wanted, it seemed like a natural fit. Here, he shares how he made the leap.

What work were you doing previously?

I was an Officer for the Royal Marines.

What are you doing now?

I’m the Principal of Knight Wealth Management, an authorised representative of St. James’s Place Wealth Management.

How did you feel about your work before you decided to make a change?

I was happy with the work, but I wanted a different quality of life for my family.

Why did you change?

In order to settle my family in one location and settle my kids into a new school.

How did you choose your new career? 

I started looking at options about 12 months before I left the Marines, in order to ensure I could transition smoothly.

I didn't rule out any options and spoke to as many people as I possibly could. It was through this method that I was able to rule out certain industries and jobs.

There really was nothing in particular about finance that drew me to it; it was more that I could help people with their finances, build my own business and achieve the work-life balance I was looking for.

The option of being able to fully retrain with the St. James's Place Academy really was appealing.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, very happy.

As challenging as it has been starting a business, I now spend a lot more time with my family.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss the people and the loyalty.

I don’t miss the long deployments away from my family.

How did you go about making the shift?

I found out about St. James's Place through another former Royal Marine who had started the Academy career programme.

I met with him to get some advice on his transition process and it was through hearing him chat about the St. James's Place business model that I decided to pursue it further.

I finished the Marines at Christmas and started the Academy in the January intake.

In terms of setting up my business, initially I used LinkedIn as a way of promoting what I did; that was a useful tool for letting people know about my career transition.

I spoke to close friends and contacts for help and support; over time, quite a few of them became clients. In my first year I was proactive in meeting as many people as I could and that really paid off in the long term.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

This was challenging, but fortunately I was in receipt of a military pension which enabled me to 'afford' my first year as a financial adviser. There was also some funding provided by St. James’s Place during the first six months of the training.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Adapting to a new industry.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

In hindsight, there are a lot of things I would have done differently.

Had I known how much system and product knowledge would be required, I would have worked out of an SJP Practice as much as possible before and during the Academy. This would have enabled me to become more familiar with how the business operates. 

As for finances, it is important that you prepare as much as possible for the first year in business and the time it takes to generate regular cash flow. Had I have had more time I would have spent it with an SJP Practice, as the learning curve after the Academy can be steep. That’s based more on the realities of the job compared to the technical knowledge required.

But as every year goes by, I feel I have a better understanding on how to generate better-quality business.

What help did you get?

I made sure that I had a number of different tutors – people who specialised in different areas – so that I could leverage their knowledge.

And of course there was the Academy, which allows you the time and resources to think about how you will run your business.

What have you learnt in the process?

I have learnt an awful lot in terms of professional knowledge and how to run a business.

Everyday I am learning something new - it could be related to new technical knowledge, networking opportunities, or how to run my business more efficiently. 

It is difficult to condense just how much I have learnt, but perhaps most importantly you learn exactly how you are motivated and what drives you as an individual. 

I have really enjoyed meeting new people and learning what my clients want from me and how I can add value.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Plan early!

Thanks to our friends at St. James's Place for this story. To find out more about the Academy, visit www.sjp.co.uk/academy.

Also, find out more about St. James's Place Academy in our Retraining Directory.

What lessons could you take from James's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.