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Pension Wise to chartered planner: one IFA's inside story

Dart Capital's Kirsty Stone is on a mission to impart financial education far and wide

Pension Wise to chartered planner: one IFA's inside story

Kirsty Stone is on a mission to impart financial education far and wide. Her drive comes from a stint as a guidance caseworker at the government’s Pension Wise service, where she began to see misinformation about finances was commonplace.

‘I don’t feel like there’s much out there for the average person to suddenly understand their savings,’ she says. ‘I became very passionate about making sure those who came in knew what they were doing.

‘They might not understand the intricacies of everything. But as long as they understand the basic principles of the decision they’re making, that’s what’s crucial.’

Starting from scratch

28-year-old Stone is a chartered financial planner and investment manager at London-based Dart Capital. She started at the London-based firm three years ago as a paraplanner.

Stone went to university to study law. But it was during her degree that she got a taste for finance.

‘I had a placement year and I spent that time volunteering at Citizens Advice,’ she says. ‘I started working there with no idea about the investment world. I don’t know many people who know a lot about investing or saving, who don’t work in our profession. It’s not a common thing you talk about.’

She says she bought the signature yellow Investing for Dummies book and absorbed as much of as she could because she wanted a job. After graduating, she joined Taunton-based Plumptree Kilby as a trainee paraplanner for two years and built some solid knowledge on pensions.

Stone says Plumptree Kilby played a huge role in teaching her about financial services. But she moved to London in 2015 and began working at Pension Wise.

‘That really teamed up my two main skill sets: I’d worked at Citizens Advice and did the face-to-face meetings. And I also had a background in pensions from my two years at Plumptree Kilby,’ she says.

Home truths

Stone says Pension Wise is a good guidance service for the public. ‘I saw lots of people making the right decisions that had come in with the completely wrong idea. They may have potentially made some detrimental choices had they not looked for guidance.’

But she says the topic of tax seemed to come up more than most. ‘People don’t understand anything about tax. You don’t have a choice, and it’s taken out of your payslip. You can’t change it, so nobody really questions it.’

At retirement, the tax implications can be huge and this is where Stone felt many people were a little clueless. She saw people who were planning to withdraw their pension in one go.

‘You have to shake them and say: “no, you’re going to pay a disgusting amount for that”. And they just didn’t know that at the time.’

But working at Pension Wise came with its limitations. ‘I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t advise people into making the right decisions,’ says Stone. With each session lasting only an hour, she felt there was only so much she could do. She adds: ‘Ultimately what planners do and the decisions our clients make take more than an hour. It just wasn’t enough for me.’

This led her to Dart Capital where she has carried her passion to educate through to her current role. ‘I want people to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. It makes it easier for them to make a decision and appreciate it. And when they look back at it, they’ll feel like it was the right thing to do there and then.’

She adds: ‘I don’t want my clients to take what I say as a given. I want them to understand and challenge what I’m saying to make sure it’s right for them.’

First job

When I was 16, I worked in a pet shop, selling rabbits and fish.

Charity work

I am a part of the Women’s Institute and delivered a session on basic financial principles to my group.

Career ambition

World domination I guess. In the next two years I would like to build a really strong client bank and for people to understand what I do as a financial planner and why we are so great at what we do.

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