7 November 2023

Spotlight Series - Darren Lees

Tell us about your role at Carbon and why you wanted to work for the business?

I am a chartered financial planner with Carbon, and I look after clients across all our locations, including London. I am involved in the ongoing coaching and training of our planning team, working alongside Mark Christie arranging and presenting at regular training days. Another element of my role is to coach new planning team members which I thoroughly enjoy. I wanted to work for Carbon because I value the culture, we have developed through living our values. Clients are at the centre of all we do and there is huge importance placed on building strong, long term client relationships.

Talk us through your career to date.

My journey started with an advert in my local newspaper for a Graduate Financial Planner with Carbon and I applied for the role. Once offered the role, I moved from my home in Dundee to Edinburgh to start my career having completed a Law Degree at Dundee University. The structure of the graduate scheme meant you started in Client Support, our busiest team with most diverse role within the business. It was a steep learning curve and one I couldn’t have done without the more experienced members of the team taking the time to help and coach me. Learning the tough way on the job whilst also completing your professional exams made for an eventful introduction to the business. It gave me a very good grounding which has stood me in good stead to this day.

Soon after, I moved to London with my then girlfriend, now wife and joined a small IFA practice. This was a great experience for me as they approached client work in a very similar way to Carbon. A couple of years later, I joined Coutts in London, which was a very different experience given it is a private bank rather than a small independent company. At Coutts, I was tasked with looking after a large book of high net worth individuals which allowed me to build significant client facing experience over a short space of time. A different approach to investments and wealth management than I was used to and again good to build my experience.

I always kept in touch with Carbon and when they offered me a route back into the business, I was delighted to return to open our London office. I firmly believe that the Carbon ethos is the best option for clients and most aligned to my own personal opinions on how financial planning should be approached, so it was a great opportunity to rejoin the company.

Since rejoining Carbon, I worked in our London office for 5 years returning to Scotland last year to spend more time across all our offices. I still visit London regularly for client meetings but have enjoyed being back around our head office in Edinburgh and working from Perth.

What is it about your role that excites and inspires you?

It is not about the investment, the pension, or the net worth of a client; it is about the plan behind it, what is important to the client and ultimately what makes them happy. We could create the most successful ‘financial’ plan for them but unless it is deeply personal and focused on helping them spend money on what is important then it doesn’t mean much at all. I am inspired by my clients’ personal journeys; I love hearing about their achievements to date and the deeper motivations driving their plans for the future. It is rewarding to be able to build a structure within which they can achieve these plans. Our job is not strictly about wealth or wealth creation, it is about using that wealth to facilitate experiences and events with family and friends which have a meaningful impact on a client’s wellbeing.

What is a key piece of financial advice over the next five years?

It probably isn’t any specific changes or pieces of legislation; it is that everything changes at speed! So many factors are ever evolving such as tax rules, pension rules, inflation, interest rates, it can perhaps feel overwhelming to keep track of it all if is not your area of expertise.
This is why I would recommend that people engage with a financial planner whose expertise can cut through all the news reports and conflicting information to give advice that is meaningful to your personal situation.

What is the most important piece of advice you give to your clients?

My one key piece of advice is – take some time to explore what is important to you, what makes you and the people closest to you happy. Our hectic lives don’t often allow time to reflect on this, but it is so important to understand what your values are, what drives and motivates you. It is why I dedicate part of my initial discussion with clients to this subject, so that any advice that we provide thereafter is deeply personal to that client and is taking them on the journey that they want to be on.

What are the next steps in your career?

I’m looking forward to spending more time with senior management, continuing to help with the overall business strategy and managing the transition to Progeny so that my clients feel a benefit to being part of the wider group. My number one focus is on providing excellent advice and continuing to look after my clients well which will in turn help organically grow my client base through recommendations and referrals. I also enjoy supporting and helping junior members of the team so I would like to continue developing as a coach.

If you would like to discuss your financial situation with Darren directly, please contact him here.

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