Holly joined The Grad Scheme in 2017 and in less than 2 years, has achieved her CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning! It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Holly, but she’s overcome every hurdle and should be so proud of herself, as we are. She’s quite literally had her cake and eaten it (see pic!).
We asked Holly to describe her journey so far, take a read below…
What were your biggest challenges?
I sometimes found it a struggle to fit in time to revise – it used to take me an hour to get to and from work, so I was finding that a good two hours of my day just disappeared due to travelling. When I finished work at 5pm, I was really struggling to feel motivated to stay and revise – however, flexi-time was introduced as a potential option for those who felt as though they would benefit from a little more flexibility with their working day and this has helped me massively.
I now work 10am-6pm on a Monday, which allows me to still come in earlier but use that time purely for revision – it’s taken away the pressure and made me feel much more motivated on a morning. I also work 8am-4pm on other days – allowing me to spend any time after 4pm getting my head down to revise.
Last year, the team introduced a breakfast study club – where those who have exams have to opportunity to come in early, get fuelled with some breakfast and have some time with a senior member of staff, who sits down with them and goes through their revision. I found this super helpful when I was feeling stressed about my exams.
Although it was difficult learning lots of new content, at the same time, it’s helped with my work as it’s mostly all relevant in my job role. There were times when it all felt a little overwhelming, taking things in constantly, but it’s worked out making life easier and has ensured I feel more confident in my job role.
Which did you find to be the hardest exam?
R02 Investment Principles.
I completed my exams in what some would say to be an unconventional order! I did R01 Financial Services, Regulation and Ethic, R05 Financial Protection, then R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning – I found these to be relatively easy and revising for pensions helped me out substantially in my day to day workload, (completing carry forward calculations etc).
After passing these, I was feeling super confident and booked straight in for R02 and I failed. I thought it would all be relatable to the work I was already doing in the office, but a lot of the content is on how the individual funds are taxed etc. which I wasn’t aware of.
Failing definitely hit my confidence levels – I booked R03 Personal Taxation soon after because I didn’t feel ready to re-sit R02, as I was I was really stinging from the fail. I passed R03, booked in for R06 Financial Planning Practice and while I was waiting for the R06 results (as this was a written exam), I rebooked the dreaded R02 and passed!
R02 is a lot of maths and calculations and whilst I can do the basics, I hadn’t used a scientific calculator since Year 11! All continued studies from then were written basis (Philosophy, History, English), so this was something that I struggled to readjust to.
What’s your top 3 tips for any new grads?
1 – Go at your own pace when sitting exams – I tried to fly through mine and hit a hurdle which threw me. It’s best to take more time when going through the process as it’s not a race. Exams support you in your day to day learning at work and help you understand your role better – so use that!
2 – Don’t ever struggle quietly in the office if you’re stuck on something, there are so many people here who’ve been/are going through exactly what you are and they genuinely want to help.
3 – Just remember that the content may be new to you and it’s a bit daunting at first, but you learn so much during your probation and by the time you’re onto exams, it looks a lot less scary!
If you’re thinking of taking the leap into financial services, check out our latest vacancies.