January 2021

We’re aware that a lot of the time, the person whom you as a client come into regular contact with at Emery Little is your financial planner; the personal face of your investment plans and aspirations. But behind this knowledgeable face is a whole team of other specialists, applying their expertise and experience to inform, manage and support your financial plans. We feel we want you to ‘meet’ these people and give you a sense of Emery Little as a whole.

In December we introduced you to our Chief Executive Joanna Little; this month we’re talking to Alfie Mullan, our whizz of a Chartered Financial Planner, who leads our financial planning team. Here he gives us an insight into his career, his motivations, and a bit about life outside the office (yes, even financial experts have other interests).

Over to Alfie…

Becoming a Chartered Financial Planner wasn’t, admittedly, a lifelong ambition of mine. When I joined Emery Little in November 2007 as an administrator I didn’t even know what an ISA was! I hadn’t done too well in my A Levels and dropped out of formal education. I had jobs at Tesco and an estate agent and had done a bit of labouring, but my heart was never in it. Luckily my supportive family drove me around and helped me scour newspaper job ads, until I came across one advertising for a Wealth Management Administration role. That is how I ended up at Emery Little, keeping the admin cogs turning… and when a role opened up in the Paraplanning team I convinced management to give me a shot at it.

My approach to life and work was transformed by an experience on sabbatical in 2012. Travelling in Bolivia, we worked in a mine for a day. It was the most eye-opening experience seeing the conditions the guys worked in there, and after 3 or 4 hours I came out and felt I could never complain about work again. At the ripe old age of 24, I realised I had an incredible life in comparison, and I needed to do something more with it. When I returned to the UK and to Emery Little I had a new purpose and energy, and a real motivation to become a Financial Planner. I committed myself hard to exams and in less than two years became the first person at Emery Little to gain Chartered status, taking on my first client in early 2015.

This drive to become a financial planner was partly based on a sense of achievement and winning – it was the highest spot to get to. But alongside that, although it sounds a bit cheesy, is genuinely the ability you have as a financial planner to make people’s lives better. And then you get paid for it, which makes your own life better! I also enjoy the behavioural side of it, the human or emotional aspect – why we act in different ways and how that impacts our lives.

Perhaps that’s why I really love meeting with clients. Everyone has a story, and it’s all about connecting with them on it. Clients open up to me and share stories and experiences, then I share back. You create real relationships with people. That’s the power of financial planning: you listen to and understand what clients are worried about and what they’re ok with, and then help them by giving qualified advice. Sometimes they just need a few nudges here and there, other times a real deep dive and a lot of re-educating. But either way, together you unpick everything they’ve told you to understand who they are, and the best ways to achieve what they want.

It’s the best job in the world, because where else do you get to do that? Just by listening to someone, you can come up with a solution. You really do have the power to make a difference.

In August 2019 I stepped up to lead Emery Little’s financial planning team. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in self-awareness, especially working with a leadership coach. It’s a fascinating exercise being completely open and honest and vulnerable about where you’re at and what you’re feeling. I’ve come to see that a good leader has to have a lot of courage to be vulnerable, to solve problems and to move forward. As well as trying to bring the best out of people around him or her, and creating an atmosphere of trust, healthy conflict and commitment.

I have a constant desire to keep learning. To stay fresh and challenge my thinking I’m always listening to podcasts, reading books and attending webinars on leadership, business, finance, and financial planning. Things like Carl Richards’ The One-Page Financial Plan, Andy Hart’s Maven Money podcast, The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, Nudge by Richard H. Thaler, and Atomic Habits by James Clear. I relish that stream of information and debate, sparking my curiosity and furthering my understanding. You can’t rely solely on what you’ve learned through your day job. 

I also learned a lot through running Eelah – a financial planning business for tech entrepreneurs that Jo Little and I set up as an off-shoot to Emery Little. We pushed ourselves hard, invested in ourselves and drastically increased our self-awareness. Setting it up and running our own business was the hardest thing I have ever done and it has given us so many lessons that we are now applying to Emery Little and the future of the business.

Outside of work, a big driver for me is definitely family. My wife Miranda is a rock of support, and my parents continue to inspire me – my mum donated a kidney to a friend a few years ago: now that’s inspiration. It’s my wife, my family and my friends who I want to make proud every day. On a practical level, I also ask my Dad to critique everything I write, so I know that it rings true.

As well as financial planning I love sport, following Chelsea, keeping fit and strong, gaming, food, good-quality craft beers and nice red wine. I love living in East London and know all the good places to eat and drink – I’m always happy to dispense advice on this as well as my financial expertise!