Jonnie Whittle, managing director of Clarion Wealth Planning
Jonnie Whittle is the managing director of Clarion Wealth Planning, he chats to BQ about how his career has taken him from playing rugby to running a business.
What is it the company does?
Clarion provides lifelong financial planning and investment management to successful individuals and their families. We specialise in working with business owners planning to exit or capitalise on part of their business, giving them confidence that they are making the right decisions about their finances and future.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Ron Walker was the founding partner of Clarion over 33 years ago and up until this year was the managing director and a financial planner. I’m the newly appointed managing director and also a practising financial planner. Both roles involve ensuring everyone is working to the same goal and enjoying it as they go, whether it be clients or the Clarion team. I also work with the board of directors to ensure our strategy is aligned with our core values, client’s needs, and ever-changing regulations.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I played rugby professionally until I was 25 years old, before early retirement due to injury. Whilst playing rugby, I also picked up some work experience outside training hours with a small financial planning practice. After I retired from rugby, I moved into financial planning full time in 2008. I started off at Fairhurst, an accountancy practice in Wigan. I then moved to RSM Tenon, before becoming a director in joint ventures with accountancy practices throughout the North West.
In 2014, I set up a new financial planning firm with private equity support. It was during this time I first met Ron, the founder of Clarion, as I was looking at how to grow the business and wanted the advice and mentorship of one of the early architects of financial planning. A year or so after meeting him, I was working with him and the Clarion team!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I’m still trying to figure that one out! Two things that are definitely on the list are, to lead by example and to always deliver on your promises. I also believe that you should never ask anyone to do something you have not done or wouldn’t be willing to do.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Clarion is a well-established firm that has the solid reputation to match, I’ve had to work hard to ensure there is continuity for everyone involved, especially during our recent rebrand and office move. It is imperative we maintain the high-quality, personal service that the firm is known for.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I don’t really view the job as stressful, but I do find it helps to change the focus of my energy. As a sportsperson, I did physical training at least five days a week from a very early age, and even now I train a minimum of three days a week. I like a variety of physical training and I’ve also done yoga for over seven years. The rest of my time is devoted to family and I enjoy holidays and breaks in coastal areas around the UK, with the Isle of Skye and Cornwall being two of my favourite destinations.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was never really sure when I was younger, in the end, I just followed my interests. Sport, especially rugby, was a given being from Wigan. I also always loved problem solving and learning and was curious about how things work, this included business. I have a degree in Physics and when I graduated it was clear that I liked combining the details with the bigger picture, this led me to financial planning.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
My two biggest frustrations are people who have the wrong mindset and those who don’t care about the outcome; problem creators. I want to be surrounded with problem solvers, people who, if they know there is an issue bring it up and want to get on solving it with their colleagues help, Luckily, I’m surrounded with people like that at Clarion.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I see us doing more of what we are good at; true, lifelong financial planning. We’ve developed and honed our approach to financial planning over 30 years and our process is only going to become more relevant in the current world of segmented and specialised professional services. We’re confident that because of this we will grow organically while staying true to our core values.
We’ve recently expanded to new headquarters in Alderley Edge giving us space to grow our team and bring in people who share our vision for life-long financial planning and investment management.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Soak up as much information as you can from people who are successful in their chosen career – even now I still learn a huge amount from our senior team, colleagues in the industry and the successful clients we work with. I would also advise people to vary their skill sets and experiences as much as they can. Finally, business leaders have to be prepared to lead by the front and graft, hard work really does go a long way.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Don’t underestimate the value of patience – there is no real beginning or end.
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