Meet Martin Johnson

What was your role in the military?

I was an infantryman, for 17 years, in The Green Howards (now 2 YORKS). For much of my first 10 years we were involved in Northern Ireland, and I served a tour as a Platoon Commander in Belfast, two tours as a Company Second-in- Command in Armagh City and then in South Armagh. My last (18 month) tour there was as a Company Commander (Major) of the Province Reserve, and so conducting operations throughout Northern Ireland.

As a Grade 3 Staff Officer (in the rank of Captain) I served at HQ UK Land Forces responsible for the logistics of the UK Mobile Force, joining them on exercise in Denmark and Norway. My Grade 2 appointment (Major) was at the Defence Operational Analysis Establishment; I was fortunate to be selected to fly out to Ascension Island to debrief 3 Commando Brigade as they returned from The Falklands on board Canberra.

I was also fortunate enough to be selected to serve with the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) in Zimbabwe in 1983 where I set up and ran the Officer’s Training Wing for the Zimbabwe National Army.

Why did becoming a financial adviser appeal to you?

I always had a healthy interest in money and had carefully invested and nurtured such little capital as I had in order to achieve the goals of being able to educate our children in the private sector and have our own house throughout my Service. I therefore felt that I might be suited to a second career helping others to achieve their financial goals.

How did you become a qualified financial adviser?

A brother officer had left a few years previously and joined Hill Samuel Investment Services (HSIS), so I got in touch with him. He explained how HSIS ran a series of in-house training courses to enable new joiners to pass the exams for the requisite Financial Planning Certificates, plus various courses specific to HSIS products and services e.g. Unit Trusts, Investment Trusts, and Offshore Investments (Switzerland, Channel Isles, and Isle of Man), and how they could be utilised to meet client needs. This seemed to be a fascinating business with a clear means of achieving the necessary qualifications, so I joined.

Subsequently, at Allied Dunbar (which bought HSIS) I attended courses to enable me to pass the exams of the CII (Chartered Insurance Institute); there was also continuing in-branch training to keep one up to date with the ever changing legislative and regulatory requirements.

What transferable skills were you able to take from the military into being an adviser?

Whilst an infantryman would not at first sight seem to have many transferable skills, in fact what he should have is what are now often termed ‘people skills’ – i.e. the ability to communicate, and empathise, with people from all walks of life. The Sandhurst motto is ‘Serve to Lead’ and the successful financial adviser will recognise that only by serving his clients and putting their interests first (i.e. as any true professional person does) that he will be able to lead his clients towards arranging their financial affairs in a manner that will meet their true needs.

Which skills did you need to develop when you became an adviser?

I had to learn to be a self-employed businessman, working both ‘in the business’ advising clients and ‘on the business’ e.g. sourcing new clients, developing contacts with providers, keeping up to date with legislative and regulatory changes, organising my tax affairs efficiently, etc etc.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

Seeing the fruits of my labours – from a family achieving their financial goals, to being able to show a widow that her late husband had insurances that would ensure that she and the children would not have any money worries, to enabling a couple to buy their first house together.

What’s the best advice you personally have ever been given?

That of my prep school headmaster: “The best is good enough, but only just”.