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What I Learned as a Broker Working in London’s Biggest Financial District

“Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.” -Richard M. DeVos

At the age of 16, after leaving compulsory education, I went to work at a high end department store, an experience that changed my life completely. Continuously interacting with high net worth individuals moulded me into someone who, at the time, I genuinely believed that I wanted to be… a money crazed piece of s***.  Only later would I realize how misplaced my aspirations had been.

Two years later, after completing self-funded financial market training courses, I managed to secure a position in a fully regulated stock broker. In my short time as a broker, I learned several key lessons to living a truly fulfilling life:

1) Money Isn’t Everything

Money is a huge part of life. To a certain extent, it controls the world and environment in which we live. On my first day as broker, I was introduced to two senior brokers who were both sporting £15,000 Rolex watches. Seeing this luxury jewellery combined with the presence that these individuals gave off, I instantly wanted to become like them.

As time rolled on in my job, I started to open accounts for clients with ease. One of my colleagues used to say that opening an account was “as easy as slicing a warm knife through butter.” Stock brokering came to me naturally, and by the end of the day it was almost a guarantee that I would be at the top of the leader board.

As I opened more accounts, I came across more investors. One elderly man in particular changed my attitude to the job completely. He was around 70 years old and had a life savings of around £17,000– minute compared to my other clients. For some reason, he was intrigued by an investment scheme we had been running at the time and was willing to invest £5,000. Little did he know that within the next two years, this same company would be driven into the ground, and his investment would be gone. I couldn’t do this to him, and I couldn’t earn commission off him so I simply deleted his contact, told him to treat himself with the £5,000 and make the most of the time doing what he enjoys. I knew I couldn’t bear to look at myself knowing I had played a significant part in his financial downfall.

The situation triggered a thought that surely it’s better to help people personally then to profit from their financial illiteracy. At the end of my life, is my happiness going to be based on the money I made or on the relationships and memories I shared with friends and family?

2) Be Yourself

Cold calling and talking to clients over the phone allows you the freedom to be someone you are not. I am not from a wealthy background nor am I from a family that has an accent that would consider “posh” so to speak. I grew up in East London and most of my dialogue contains words and sayings known as ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’– something that I knew would be of no benefit to my clients.

From the first day I picked up the phone, I put on this persona that I was from a wealthy background. My accent was pitched perfectly to a tee, and the people on the other end of the line believed I was one of them. However, it started to take its toll. Being this person for 10 hours a day affected me hugely. It got to the point that I would go home, ignore my family and go straight to bed. I lost who I was. I barely laughed anymore, and relationships with my friends and family began to fray. I started to feel like a robot. Even surrounded by 60 brokers in a tiny room I felt lonely.

As soon as I quit, everything went back to normal. My relationships grew stronger and I felt better than ever, as if some burden had been lifted from my shoulders. If people can’t accept you for being you, don’t take it personally. It’s their loss.

3) Be Happy

Happiness is key to life. If you’re miserable in your life and your job, you need to do something about it before your situation worsens. The probability of your life fixing itself is very slim. I sat at a desk not enjoying what I was doing. All I enjoyed was that ten minutes of euphoria at the end of each month when I was handed my payslip.

Was hours of suffering negative emotions worth that ten minutes of pure happiness? No. The majority of the time I didn’t even get to enjoy the money that I earned. Once you are happy in yourself and your commitments, more opportunities and relationships will open up to you and the quality of your life will improve as well. Don’t be miserable, change what you are doing and pursue something that you are passionate about.

Written by Oliver Webb

Born and raised in London, England. @o_webb

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