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Inspiration – marrying your career & life goals

21 May 2020

When our career goals and life goals collide, the impact can be inspirational. Rebecca Kowalski, paraplanner and compliance officer at Cornerstone Asset Management, explains how a new project for work has been key in fulfilling her personal aspirations too.

This article was first published in the May 2020 issue of Professional Paraplanner.

As a paraplanner, I’ve naturally spent plenty of time considering client goals and helping build plans to help turn them into reality. I have also contributed to company and team goals as well as supporting multiple advisers.

There have also been a few goals of my own fulfilled along the way, exams passes, a few awards, occasionally a pay rise! However, until recently it was the goals scored in my personal life that I’ve celebrated more than the work ones. Whether successes for community projects I’ve led, improvements in my 10k time or my children’s successes in their endeavours.

For a long time, paraplanning was a job to me rather than a vocation. A role I was good at that was suited to some of my skills and allowed me to pick from a range of employers. Recently, however, I’ve found the role has led me down an unexpected path which has filled me with pride and enthusiasm in a way financial services never has before.

Since starting to work at Cornerstone Asset Management seven years ago, the company has encouraged my desire to contribute to the business in many ways. This has allowed me to develop new advice propositions, manage others and become heavily involved in Compliance. All of these have been interesting challenges.

New spring in my step

However, nothing quite prepared me for the huge new spring in my step that my latest project would bring. Early in 2019, I started thinking a lot about sustainable investing and began to get very excited about the idea of integrating “investment for a better future” with our clients’ wish to pass wealth down the generations. This thinking coincided with my daughter taking her first post-graduate job in the sustainability sector, at Zero Waste Scotland. The more she worried about climate change, carbon footprints and mass extinctions, the more I threw myself into developing a sustainable investment proposition that could address some of these issues. The strategy, of course, would also have to look after our client’s wealth as carefully as a mother looks after her children! Responsible to the planet and its people and to clients and their families.

A few months passed in which myself and a team of colleagues did more research, identified the right discretionary investment managers to build suitable thematic, impactful portfolios and finessed the brand. By November 2019, the Cornerstone Responsible Futures brand was ready for launch. I reached out to the teenage climate striker and Young Scotswoman of the Year nominee Holly Gillibrand to speak at our launch event, and felt so proud when a room full of influential businesspeople and clients listened intently to her clear and urgent message.

I helped write and design marketing material, started attended networking events such as the Global Ethical Finance Initiative and I am about to launch the company’s first podcast, covering sustainable investment, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Conference of the Parties – COP26 – which takes place down the road from our Glasgow office in November. A project suited to all of my skills, not just some of them and that has such limitless value.

Probably the most rewarding aspect of all is when I see my enthusiasm reflected back or beginning to rub off on clients and colleagues. I mentor a trainee paraplanner whose ultimate goal is to become an adviser specialising in sustainable investing. This role is probably pretty rare at the moment but I am full of hope and determination that it will be more mainstream and achievable for her in a few years’ time.

While its going to take the commitment of governments, consumers and corporations to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, I’m certainly hoping that our Responsible Futures proposition will make a positive contribution. Having worked in Financial Services a long time, I’m absolutely delighted my traditional paraplanning role has developed into a new vocation and possibly even a mission!

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