“Incorporating financial wellbeing has a profound impact.”

IFW member Kim Bendall is the founder of Go Paraplanning, and is a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society, Certified Financial PlannerTM and a CISI Fellow and Accredited Paraplanner. She moved into outsourced paraplanning in 2012 and founded Go Paraplanning in 2020. Go Paraplanning has grown organically since then, and now employs a team of very highly skilled and experienced paraplanners providing technical and consultancy support to a select group of like-minded, high-quality financial planning firms throughout the UK.

Kim Bendall will chair Victoria Dale’s breakout discussion: ‘Diversity in the financial sector: Who’s doing what well?’ on 21st May.

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Read on to discover how a childhood of poverty and love of travel, and shoes, has shaped Kim’s determination and passion for financial wellbeing.

How would you summarise your passions, both in and out of work?

Professionally, my passion is about communication, in all its forms. I love being able to take something extremely complicated and explain it in a way that’s simple to understand, meaningful and engaging for the recipient.

Outside of work, I love keeping fit and am a regular gym-goer, pole dancer and yoga enthusiast. I also love fast cars, motorbikes, travelling far and wide, and wandering around dusty old National Trust houses.

What’s your happiest memory?

I’m lucky to live a very fulfilling life, peppered with many outstanding and happy memories that I’ve taken a mental snapshot of, and stored those feelings forever.

One of the happiest times of my life was in the first Covid lockdown. Being forced to get off the spinning carousel for a while, and really take stock of what’s important to me, enjoying the simple pleasures that are around me. It was a beautiful summer in which I spent a lot of time in the garden, just being peaceful and content to listen to the birds singing, without the drone of cars in my ears and pollution filling my lungs. Being at one with nature brings me so much calmness and serenity.

What do you wish you’d been told about finance when you were 15?

Literally anything would have been useful. We were homeless when I was 15, and I was brought up learning bad lessons about money. It was only when I become a paraplanner and started working on my qualifications that I learned what to do, and what not to do.

With hindsight, learning about the significance of compound interest and how it applies to both investments and debts would have enabled me to make smarter choices from a younger age, and would have helped me guide my parents into making better choices, too. We lived in poverty for much of my young childhood, which had a profound effect on my relationship with money, and still influences some of my behaviours even now.

What made you want to work in finance?

I didn’t! I was taken out of school at 16 and sent out to work to earn money to help keep my family afloat, so I never had the opportunity to go to college or university. I didn’t mind because I hadn’t got a career path at the time.

I decided to try a few different industries and promised myself that, when I found something that fitted me, I’d got for it whole-heartedly and go as far as I possibly could up the career ladder.

By the time I was 20 years old I still had no idea what I wanted to do for a living.    I happened to be working in an accountancy firm at the time but didn’t fancy being an accountant by profession. The accountancy firm had an opening for an administrator/trainee IFA in their financial services arm, in which a friend of mine worked. I thought to myself “I’ve always wanted to know how stocks and shares work”, so I went for it and got the job.

Finally, this little square peg found a square hole to nestle into, and I never looked back.

How did this lead to you wanting specifically to be a paraplanner?

Back in 2000, there really wasn’t such a thing as a ‘paraplanner’ in the financial services industry. It was a very new phenomenon that was just starting to come across to the UK from US, and extremely few financial planning firms had ever heard of it – let alone providers.

The IFP (now CISI) was one of the first organisations to really publicise the role, and my employer at the time was a member of the IFP, so it was pure luck that my hybrid administrator/trainee IFA job title was among the first in the country to be formally known as ‘paraplanner’. Back then, it was literally a case of making up the job as you went along – bridging the gap between admin and advice – and I found that I had a natural flair for it, as well as a hunger for knowledge. I didn’t even meet another paraplanner until 2011 – there were no paraplanner groups or networks at the time. Within a couple of years, paraplanning was firmly on the map and it’s now evolved into a profession in its own right. I’m extremely proud to have been part of that journey, and now enjoy spending time passing on my knowledge and mentoring other trainee paraplanners.

How did you come to launch Go Paraplanning in 2020?

Covid changed a lot of things for me. It made me realise what’s important in my life, and that I needed to be in control of my own destiny if I was ever going to fulfil my dreams and aspirations. Owning my own business, and particularly working completely in the cloud, supported by an amazing team, enables me to work anywhere in the world.

We now live in the French Alps for three months a year, and travel regularly throughout the UK visiting our clients and having the odd day off here and there. I’m able to work the hours that I need to, and to be generally more flexible with my time and working environment than would ever be the case if I were employed elsewhere. It’s truly a lifestyle business, in that I’m able to still be ‘present’ and fully hands-on, but I get to do it on my own terms, and within my own budget. I work harder and longer hours now than I’ve ever done in my life, but the way that I work is incredibly fulfilling and gives me a lot of freedom.

What prompted you to join the Institute for Financial Wellbeing, back when it was still the Initiative?

I was chairing a training session/discussion for a group of paraplanners, in which Chris Budd had been invited to come along and talk about Financial Wellbeing. So much of what he said resonated with me, and with my personal experiences of money. I shared with Chris and the group a story about a client that we worked with many years ago who ended up encompassing philanthropy into her financial plan, in order to buy a lifeboat for the RNLI. Chris said to me at the time that it was a powerful and inspirational story, and really dovetailed with what the IFW is about, so I should write it down and share it. Eventually, The Butterfly Effect and Butterly Effect Part Two articles were born.

With Chris and I having shared these experiences with each other, I felt drawn to supporting the IFW because I feel that it’s where the future of financial planning lies, and because I genuinely believe that incorporating financial wellbeing into our communications with clients around money has a profound impact on their future decisions and lifestyle. I’ve seen first-hand how life-changing it can be for clients, so I’m in no doubt of its importance and relevance.

What is your top tip for someone wanting to improve their financial wellbeing?

Don’t be too scared to do something significant, even if it involves a step backwards, if you believe it’ll give you the future that you’re looking for. Too many people ‘settle’ for something because it’s safer and less risky than the alternative. When you dream big, and when you are prepared to dedicate the necessary time, energy, and short-term sacrifices, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life regretting the things I didn’t do. For me, it would be a life wasted.

Who are your favourite wellbeing gurus?

My counsellor and my nutritionist. Wellbeing is (to me) a very personal journey that requires introspection and something that is tailored to my own personal needs, circumstances and goals. I find it harder to take advice from people that don’t know me, or who are providing more generic advice.

What are you doing to advance your own financial wellbeing?

I have been working with my counsellor and nutritionist for several years, because I believe strongly that good decisions and wellbeing emanate from being in good mental and physical health, and from a position of really knowing yourself and understanding how and why you perceive things the way that you do, and the things that you might do to de-rail yourself along the way.

I am also avidly against being wasteful. I very rarely throw away food, and I spend money on meaningful life-enriching experiences and memories, rather than on ‘stuff’, because ‘stuff’ can be lost, whereas no-one can take your memories away from you.

Having said that, I do have a slight shoe and handbag problem…

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