Humaira Chowdhury is our Head of Client Relationships and is responsible for ensuring that things run smoothly for every First Wealth client.
We caught up with Humaira to find out more about her journey so far, what she has learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and her advice to anyone who wants a career in the financial services industry.
Tell us more about your role and what you do?
I am Client Relationship Manager at First Wealth.
It’s quite a hybrid role. I work closely with Rob (Caplan) to look after his clients and their portfolios.
Clients have needs outside of investing their money, so I help when clients want to withdraw funds or need some reassurance when they’re feeling uncertain about things.
I also look after the other client relationship managers across other teams. I help develop and train them, teaching them to adopt and follow First Wealth’s processes and procedures.
Part of this is helping to coach them to fulfil their potential within the company. We all have our own personal goals that we’d also like to achieve, whether that’s to become financial planners, doing exams or progressing their career in other ways. I work to support the whole team to get where they want to go.
My time is split and while my week isn’t always evenly spread, it works well.
What are your specialties?
Training is something I’m really passionate about and I help train the team to do things in the First Wealth way.
It’s rewarding when you get good feedback, but it’s also about the future. First Wealth isn’t going to be built around Rob and Anthony in years to come; it’s going to be us individuals who are coming up now. So, it’s important that we work towards helping new team members to become successful.
I also enjoy problem-solving, such as making sure client problems are solved effectively and asking how can I make this work? And how can I make this as painless as possible?
Part of my role is to make sure clients understand why their involvement matters, and helping them through the process of sharing their information, completing spreadsheets, and so on.
Sometimes the data collection stage can be challenging (not everybody loves a spreadsheet), but it’s part of our job and we encourage clients to take control of their finances and know what’s going on.
What is the most valuable piece of financial advice anyone ever gave you?
Growing up, my family weren’t privileged. My parents came over to England from Bangladesh in the 1990s. When they got married, they wanted to have kids and to give their children opportunities that they may not have had growing up in Bangladesh.
My parents both worked several jobs, earning minimum wage, and working incredibly hard just to make ends meet. Eventually, they got promoted and started acquiring assets.
My mum always said: “Make sure whatever you buy, you can say is yours. And no one can ever take that hard work away from you.”
So, when I look around at the things that I have, regardless of whether they’re material things or memories, like going on holiday, I feel like I can safely say, I got this, it was my pay cheque that paid for this.
I know not to rely on anyone else. You can be with someone and then the next day you might not be with them, and your whole life changes.
What is your favourite part of your role?
Work provides a constant in my life. And I think a lot of us don’t really have that, so I really appreciate that I’m in a position where most of my days are spent with people that I know.
Often, things outside work can seem uncertain and I don’t feel in control. But at work, I feel the most in control I can be.
I feel responsible for people, for our clients and employees. I feel kind of relied on by those same people outside of work.
I’m pretty lazy at things like going to the gym, I don’t feel in control of things like that. But at work, I know I’m giving my all. So, while some people really enjoy the gym, for me my focus is my job.
First Wealth is a B Corp and a very innovative, multi-award winning company. What does the future hold?
Growth, whether that’s in terms of people, numbers, social impact, or however you want to measure it.
We know, as a firm, that we are really good at what we do but not enough people outside know. It’s not about glamourising how great we are or how not so great other firms are. What we want to show is why clients should always come to us first.
I’ve done this job for many years, and one thing that I always notice when speaking to third parties, is that they don’t understand there is an actual, genuine human being on the end of the phone.
We treat clients differently.
I’s also passionate about diversity and inclusion at First Wealth; financial services hasn’t done anywhere near enough to promote diversity, so I really appreciate the work we do to promote financial planning as a career for everyone. It’s important that when we are bringing new people in or acquiring other firms, we want to make sure that the business remains relevant and the team reflects the city we live in.
So, regardless of growth, we want to help people. While that might sound cliched, it’s relevant to the whole First Wealth team and it’s what we strive to achieve every day.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the financial services profession?
I’ve done a lot of interviews in my life, and I’ve hired many new people. You can always tell the difference between someone wanting to work within your firm and somebody that’s just saying what they think you want to hear.
It’s important that your values align with the company you want to join. When I joined First Wealth, I knew I wanted to work with high net worth clients. But I also didn’t want to work in a huge organisation.
The sector needs people who are easy to engage with and trustworthy. When I’m hiring new talent I ask myself: “Outside of work, can I spend an hour with you? Can we talk about stuff that isn’t to do with work?”
In financial services people skills are vital. We work really closely with clients but we also have to spend a lot of time with each other. So, it’s important that you’re a natural people person.
What did the pandemic teach you about financial planning?
The pandemic was the first crisis I’ve experienced while working at First Wealth.
I’m 31 now and started working in financial services when I was 24, so I’ve never really seen this kind of thing before. Brexit caused some volatility, but Covid-19 was my first bad experience. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t as bad as other things that have happened, but it taught me not to panic, which, initially, was the first thing I did.
Seeing our investments going down at a steep rate scared me. I had uncertain clients calling and wanting to take their money out.
I had to quickly calm myself down so I could help reassure our clients. Easier said than done, but Rob and Anthony have been through this sort of thing before. They reassured the whole team and helped us understand how to address clients’ concerns.
What do you think the future of financial planning looks like?
The profession should work hard to help a far wider range of people. At First Wealth, we are extremely keen to help more people from every walk of life.
We’re starting to see it, with people being more creative. Instagram and TikTok have both helped people who want to take control of their finances, especially younger people.
Younger people are savvy; they know how hard it is to buy a house. They know how hard it is to save and be able to live in London. So, I’m hoping that we can use more creative opportunities and add to it.
What we do isn’t just about fund performance. Performance is important, but it’s not going to help if you don’t make the right decisions with your money.
We won’t say no to anything. We want to explore all the possibilities. And I hope that is true for financial planning as a whole – for the profession to be full of people like us, open to trying new things.
There is a stigma about financial planning, but we genuinely mean it when we say we want to help everyone.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned working with entrepreneurs?
We love working with entrepreneurs. They have a unique type of business that brings with it a different type of work.
Meeting new clients is always fascinating. I love hearing their ideas and learning how they’ve grown and then moved their plans forward.
But it all comes back to my role of helping motivate clients to do stuff. Entrepreneurs can be a challenge, and the planning process can take a long time because they are either extremely intricate and go into immense detail and care with everything or they need to be handheld the entire way because they just don’t have the time.
What I’ve learned is that you need to speak their language, and they, in turn, need to understand the language that you are trying to introduce them to.
The most important thing is to understand their end goal, what they want their life to look like and what are the important things for them.
Humaira Chowdhury is now Team Manager.