SSAS Solutions (UK) Limited
Allison Runs her own pensions consultancy business after working her way up through the financial sector.
What does your job entail?
Most days it’s a combination of client meetings and paperwork in the office. My firm establishes and administers a specialist type of pension arrangement known as a SSAS (Small Self Administered Scheme) – which, amongst other things, enables the scheme members to invest in commercial property, land and even lend money back to their own business. As a result the role is quite varied and also involves dealing with a range of other professionals, like solicitors and accountants – which is great.
Is it 9-5?
Definitely not, in fact when you run your own business you’re always ‘on duty’ at least mentally if not physically. I’m not sure that there are many people who have the luxury of working 9–5 these days, regardless of what level they are at.
How did you get into this line of work?
Probably more by accident than design. I started out working for an Allied Dunbar appointed representative who also sold bathroom suites on the side! It was just a job to me then but quite soon I started to enjoy the work and got really interested in the financial services profession and decided that this was the career for me.
Outline your career to date?
I started off working as an admin assistant which involved processing applications for life assurance, investments and pensions. I continued to study for professional examinations, changed jobs and progressed to the role of advisor, being authorised by the industry regulator (then the Personal Investment Authority) to provide regulated investment advice in relation to pensions and investments, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
However, when I joined PwC (then Coopers & Lybrand) in 1996 I went on to specialise in the area of Small Self Administered Schemes (SSAS’s). After several promotions, I progressed to senior manager and became responsible for the operation and management of the Northern Ireland SSAS unit.
This unit then became the centre of excellence for the whole of the UK firm, for this area of specialist pension planning. In 2009, after a long and rewarding career at PwC, I decided to leave and set up my own pensions consultancy – SSAS Solutions.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
I obtained various O-levels and A-levels and then decided to leave school and take up employment rather than go on to third level education. Whilst working I sat my professional examinations and went on to specialise in pensions – undertaking various Pensions Management Institute and Chartered Insurance Institute exams.
What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?
My job involves dealing with individuals, families and their businesses – and all three entities regularly overlap. As such, it is vital to have good ‘people’ skills and the ability to communicate on many levels.
There is also a technical side to my role and it is important to be able to understand UK pension legislation and HM Revenue & Customs guidance.
My role regularly involves finding a solution to a problem or helping clients to achieve a particular business or family related objective so it helps to be a good ‘lateral’ thinker as well.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Forget about the things you can’t change and focus on the things you can. We are all capable of spending huge amounts of time and energy worrying about things that are completely outside of our control. This is time and energy much better spent on achieving a more positive outcome to another issue. That’s easy to say though - but hard to do in practice.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to walk the roads and climb hills. Most weeks, a friend and I cover up to 25/30 miles. It’s great physical exercise for the body and the mind too – but that’s because of all the talking therapy.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I once met John Travolta in the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, whilst on holiday. It was a special memory for me as it was on the same night that my husband David, proposed.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
Probably my mum, she always worked very hard when we were children and provided a really good upbringing for me and my seven older siblings. I admired her work ethic too - she took her job very seriously and was always very professional. I also admired her dedication and determination and the way she could juggle home life and work.
She taught us all to work very hard for everything we have – that was a valuable lesson as most of us tend to place more value on our accomplishments and achievements when we have worked hard for them.