Working life stories: Andrew Francis Howse

After 30 years working in investment management, 56-year-old Andrew decided to seek out a new challenge and become a personal trainer. Here he tells his working-life story.

Andrew Francis Howse

 

The way I got my first job was just one of those things. I studied Geography at university and, after I graduated, I met with an employment agency that a friend had used. They phoned me the next day and said: ‘There’s a job for you in the City.’ So I started working for the London branch of a Swiss private bank, in investment management – that’s investing people’s money on the stock markets and bond markets, trying to grow their wealth for them. And I went on to work in that field for 30 years.

When I started working, it was the 1980s and Maggie Thatcher was encouraging everyone to become an investor. In 1986 there had been the Big Bang, which meant that financial trading went electronic and you could do bigger volumes of transactions. The sector was growing strongly. But then in 1987, one month after I joined, there was a stock market crash – everything that had been going up came crashing down around your ears. I thought: ‘What have I done? Have I joined a business that’s just going to disappear?” But a year later, the markets were back to the same levels. It was a lesson – you have boom, you have bust, and then you have boom again. You just have to ride it out.

I stayed at the Swiss bank for 10 years, moving up and taking on different roles, and then I moved to a larger, traditional fund manager for 18 months. In 1999 I moved to Fidelity, one of the largest, most exciting, and most progressive fund managers in the world. They were using the best technology available to do their analysis and trying lots of new things. Challenge yourself and learn from your mistakes: that was a lesson that I learned from there. It was a great place to build a career and I stayed there for 20 years.

Swapping finance for fitness

In 2017, I was in my early 50s and I thought: you could either become the oldest person in your business, sitting back and being a little bit comfortable, or you could do something fresh and new. I’d also reached a stage where I wanted to change my work-life balance. I was doing a long commute into London plus long work hours – leaving home at 5.15am, getting home at about 8.30pm. When my children were young, I might see them for their bedtime bath and story, but beyond that it was tough. Now they were doing their GCSEs and A-levels, and I wanted to be around to help them with that.

I’d done well in my career and I was financially secure for the rest of my life, so I was free to choose what to do. I had three years where I was basically retired. I’ve always been into fitness, so I did a lot of running, and then I decided that I wanted to help others with their fitness. So I did a Personal Training qualification and I got a job as a personal trainer at David Lloyd Clubs in May 2021.

I think it’s good to have more mature personal trainers in the team, to reflect the age profile of clients who are in their 40s and 50s. Those clients often don’t want a personal trainer who’s 25 and buff! They want someone who speaks their language. A lot of my clients are businesspeople – I chat to them about their health and wellbeing, but about their businesses as well. They’re often surprised that their personal trainer knows about financial markets, and we can have interesting conversations.

A different type of satisfaction

It’s a big transition to leave a very senior role and do something totally new. You need the right mental approach. It’s important to look at it both ways – you might not have the seniority any more, but seniority brings all sorts of complications! I did have to get used to earning less, but there are different types of rewards at different stages of your career. Right now, doing something new and meeting new people provides the satisfaction, not the pay packet.

I’m senior in terms of life experience, so younger trainers still ask me for advice. For example, they ask me how to respond when clients talk about their personal and financial problems. Clients often tell their personal trainer things they would probably only tell a counsellor, because they’re relaxed and they’re away from their family and their job. There have been lots of transferable skills from my finance career, especially in terms of working with clients. I’ve got lots of experience in how to talk to people, how to explain something complicated, how to sell yourself and attract new clients.

As this is my second career, I’m doing it in a way that fits in with the rest of my life. I’m full time, but I can choose my hours. I started work at 7am today and I’ll finish at around lunchtime. My son and daughter are back from university for the summer, and my wife will finish work fairly early today too, so we can spend the afternoon together.

Some people might wonder: if you’re financially secure, why not just do nothing? Because doing nothing is boring. It’s nice to have some structure and something to challenge me. I like it that every client is different, they all have different goals.



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