September 27th, 2018

Twenty Years and Counting – Talking With Kay Crooke

You started working with Prosser Knowles Back in November 1998, what led you to work in the Financial Services Industry and for Prosser Knowles in particular?

I actually don’t remember applying for the job. I’d left college 4 months previously and wasn’t happy at the company I’d ended up working for as a PA and installation operative – I’d ended up working for the first full time job that came along. I’d always been interested in the financial services classes of my course and applied to work at banks and building societies, amongst other companies, before being invited for an interview by June Knowles, one of the founding members of Prosser Knowles.

You’ve recently been appointed Associate Practice Director.  What have been your previous roles within the company?

I originally joined Prosser Knowles as an administrator when there were literally only a handful of people at the firm.  Prosser Knowles have always had a really strong ethos of developing from within and encouraged me to sit my professional qualifications and work towards becoming an adviser, if I wanted. As the company grew, I became a supervisor and a trainee financial planning consultant. However, children came along and I wanted to have a settled work pattern for my young family’s sake – advisers often work evenings. June Knowles was retiring when I returned after the birth of my second child and I was offered the position of accounts administrator to take over her administrative responsibilities of bookkeeping for the firm. As the company grew even further, I was asked to become the practice manager in order to free up more of the directors’ time to focus on what they do best – giving an excellent service to their clients. As I have had the pleasure of working in every single role in the company (to a lesser or greater extent), I feel I can empathise with the whole team and am in a good position to be able to handle any situation that arises due to this knowledge. As mentioned, I recently accepted the position of associate practice director with overall responsibility for marketing and business development and IT amongst other things, meaning that matters can be dealt with quicker than ever before.

You must have seen numerous changes over the years, could you tell us a bit about them?

When I started at the firm, we didn’t have any internet access and everything was paper based.  We had filing cabinets everywhere containing client files, application forms and product key features together with folders full of mortgage rates and lenders criteria. For fund selection, it was a case of constantly reviewing the Financial Times. I found the prospect of becoming an adviser and giving advice on pensions and investments very, very scary. There was nothing on the market to help advisers feel more confident about the advice they were giving their clients and you had to constantly read the papers and information posted to you to be able to make an informed decision.  With the advent of the internet era, this all became a lot easier. Advisers now have research tools and systems available to them that not only detail performance but how funds, fund managers and product providers rank against their peers in terms of cost/ price and levels of service. Additionally our investment committee meet with fund managers and discretionary fund managers to ensure we have the best investment proposition available to our clients.

Who has inspired you?

I’ve taken inspiration from various members of the team over the years.  I take pride in the fact that I watch how people do things and either follow suit or adapt it to make it even better. I must say that my main inspiration has been June Knowles. When she founded the business, there weren’t very many women in her position in the industry or even in any form of professional services. She was always a stickler for perfection, whether it being the kitchen kept clean and tidy or a letter to a client being as informative as it could be and grammatically correct. She and the other directors, past and present, have always strived to stay ahead of the game in terms of any regulatory changes. I believe this, together with our ethos of developing from within, are the main reasons for the success of our company. There are less and less truly independent firms in the industry and more and more bigger firms that just don’t have the same values that we do. Additionally, we are lucky enough to have a mixture of advisers at different ages ensuring the continuing success of the company. I remember visiting training seminars and seeing a room full of men approaching retirement. It is lovely to see that our firm is helping break this stereotype.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in financial services?

If you’re willing to work hard, study and have a can do attitude, you have the opportunity to go far. I’m testament to this as I have worked my way up the career ladder at Prosser Knowles. The financial services industry can give you enormous satisfaction, as we really can help make a difference to people’s lives and futures.  There is nothing better than seeing a couple ecstatic that they’ve managed to purchase the house of their dreams with a mortgage you’ve helped arrange or that you’ve managed to help someone retire at the age they want to and fulfil their retirement goals thanks to the pension and/ or investments you helped arrange. Prosser Knowles, as I’m sure other firms do to, enjoy getting to know and having an ongoing relationship with clients.  As we were founded in 1987, we’ve enjoyed seeing many clients start out and develop on their financial journeys and everyone at Prosser Knowles has their key role in ensuring that the clients achieve their financial goals and dreams.

How do you relax?

Apart from spending time with my husband and children and taking part in my hobbies (running, swimming and gym classes), I enjoy closing myself off from the world with a good Netflix series and a glass of wine or a beer. I enjoy programmes that are pure fantasy and offer escapism helping me to switch off. There is also nothing better than a good catch up with friends or curling up with a good book.

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