Aidan Place started his career as a financial planner later than most. But he sees this as a strength, because his life experiences give him plenty to talk about with his clients.

It’s a brave thing to change career direction in your forties, but for Aidan Place of Johnston Campbell in Belfast, it was the practical thing to do.

“I spent 20 years working in retail sales,” he explains. “I used to work for the jewellers H. Samuel, first as a branch manager and then as an area manager covering Northern Ireland. But I was ready for a fresh challenge where I felt my people skills were being put to good use.”

“I applied for a sales job at Standard Life, which back then was the premier finance and insurance company in the UK. It was a leap of faith, but I was able to persuade them that my background in sales would be an advantage and they offered me a job. I took my financial qualifications and stayed with Standard Life for five years.”

"Family is always a big part of the conversations I have with clients"

But after spending so long ‘on the road’, Aidan was keen to find a job that was local and would let him see more of his young children.

“I took a role with a Belfast-based firm of Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs), but then Johnston Campbell came looking for me, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s always felt like a family business, even as we’ve continued to grow down the years.”

Family is a central theme for Aidan, not just because it’s what prompted him to become a financial planner, but also because his life experiences help him build deeper connections with his clients. He says: “For me, family is always a big part of the conversations I have with clients. But it goes both ways – my clients know about my family, and I know about theirs.

“I now have clients who are the children of clients, who suggested their children should come to me to have a chat about their circumstances. It’s become a multi-generational thing. My clients know me well enough that they don’t expect me to sell them products, and that trust helps to build long-term relationships.”

"My clients appreciate being able to talk openly with someone who is asking those same questions of themselves"

Even Aidan’s relaxation time is spent forming closer connections with the people around him. He explains: “Golf is something I really enjoy. It’s been a great way for me to spend time with clients. We often talk about unrelated things, so it’s an escape from work. And it’s not just about playing the game, it’s about spending time with people. I introduced my wife to golf a few years ago, and it means we can spend time together. As you get closer to retirement it’s important to have something that you both enjoy doing.”

On the subject of retirement, Aidan’s late entry into the financial planning industry means he has some unique perspectives to share with his clients.

“The most common question I get from clients is ‘how much is enough to retire on?’. Of course, everybody’s circumstances are different, but I will often tell my clients about my own situation. After 20 years spent in retail, my pension definitely isn’t where I would want it to be. This means I need to be realistic and make some hard choices about what will be affordable in retirement. I know that a lot of clients are in the same situation, so they appreciate being able to talk openly with someone who is asking those same questions of themselves.”

Even so, Aidan has no immediate plans to begin winding down: “I’ve got a daughter getting married in 2024, so no plans to retire just yet! I’ve always said I’d work until I stopped enjoying it, and that hasn’t happened so far.”

"Financial planning is about finding a balance between living today and planning for tomorrow"

Aidan’s approach to his working life has been shaped by other forces too. Having survived a major health scare a few years ago, he began to change his thinking about work and about making plans for the future: “When I was 46, what started out as chronic back pain was eventually diagnosed as a mycotic aortic aneurism – a rare but life-threatening condition which occurs when the arterial wall becomes infected.

“That led to surgery and kept me in hospital for a long time. I don’t think I felt like myself again for about 18 months after that. Having a critical illness policy in place meant I didn’t have to rush back to work before I was ready, and I’ll always be grateful to Johnston Campbell for giving me the time I needed.

“Not only did the experience change my attitude towards my future, but it also changed my attitude to what I do at work. Now, I share my experiences with clients, to show them what can happen, and why you need to plan for it. I think it’s important to explain the value of critical illness insurance to clients who don’t think about it – or those who assume they’ll never need it. One-in-three people will get a critical illness at some point in their life, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of their life.”

Aidan understands the value of a carefully constructed financial plan to help people manage financial peaks and troughs, no matter ‘what life throws at you’.

“I think financial planning is about finding a balance between living today and planning for tomorrow. The vast majority of my clients are just like you and me. We all have needs today and hopes and fears for the future. My job is to encourage people to talk about the issues that they’re facing and give them different options that help them get the most out of life while they can.”

Life Landscaping® from Amber River

Aidan Place from Johnston Campbell in Belfast is one of Amber River’s specialist business financial planners. Aidan survived a major health scare when he was 46, so understands the value of a carefully constructed financial plan to help people manage life’s financial peaks and troughs, no matter what’s thrown at you

Amber River Northern Ireland

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