Making the move into the financial sector

MAKING the leap from Royal Marines officer to financial adviser meant greater work-life balance and career freedom for Nick O’Sullivan MBE.

Military background

And, after almost 13 years serving in the Armed Forces specialising in military communications and two tours of Afghanistan, he was recognised for his service with an MBE before he left the military.

On leaving the Royal Marines, he first thought he would move naturally into a technology role and didn’t initially consider financial management at all.

“I thought I'd move into cyber and technology as my military career had provided me with significant experience in that area. However, my networking indicated I might not achieve what I wanted down that route,” he said.

“Instead, deciding I should look more broadly, I happened across St. James's Place Academy thanks to a former colleague and friend. I didn’t initially know much about financial services and was fairly certain most people I knew understood about as much as I did regarding financial protection and other financial considerations that actually are hugely relevant to our lives.”

Attributes required for financial advisers

After researching the role, the qualifications and attributes required, Nick decided that a move into the financial sector would be ideal, combining a better work life balance and the opportunity to build a business with the ability to make a career out of helping people.

After extensive training within the St. James’s Place Academy, Nick is now establishing his own wealth management company, supporting individuals across London and the Midlands, a move which has allowed him to focus more fully on his wife Sarah and daughter Isabella.

“I was always torn between the strong desire to maximise the support I gave to those I led, and the increasingly apparent need to support my family more than I had been. Looking back, I still believe that my family's needs were the right priority and I have now learned so much professional knowledge which I didn’t know before,“ he said.

The change from a military to civilian life

“I very much miss the camaraderie of the Armed Forces, particularly within the Royal Marines itself, where the ethos of working hard for the benefit of your fellow servicemen and women, and valuing everyone who was able and willing to contribute, was such a natural part of the culture.

“I don't miss the confused management direction present in many large organisations, or the ever-increasing pressure, tempo and workload which was rarely reflected in the remuneration, and I don't just mean salary.”

Transferable skills of the military valuable to business

And he is a firm believer in taking what the military taught him and using it in his new career.

“When people are thinking about leaving the military, I would advise them to look at what their transferable skills are – things like integrity, selflessness, putting other people first, keeping going when things take a bit of a downturn.  Some of the things that may appear too obvious to mention but are actually highly valued attributes.

“I was always told not to underestimate what Service leavers have to offer that is highly prized by the civilian sector, but bar leadership and communications skills and a high work ethic, I previously wasn't sure what else we had.

“It's only now, on the far side of that transition, I'm more aware of the range of skills we have that are of significant value, including: the planning process; risk analysis and mitigation planning; logistics; the ability to war game and anticipate requirements; the relevance of supporting functions to any operational activity and how to include them; significant levels of integrity and honesty; selflessness and putting the needs of others first; an ability to handle pressure and difficult news with a smile; and a vast range of technical skills.”

“We also have interpersonal and leadership skills and most military people are quickly integrated and can inspire a team.”

Take advantage of your military networks

Having made the leap into civilian life, Nick said he would advise other service leavers to take all the help available to them, particularly from other ex-forces personnel.

“The best help I had was from other former Service leavers, whether I'd known them directly or simply been referred to them, everyone was incredibly willing to help – and they still are.

“There seems to be a well-established tradition of continuing the esprit de corps within the former Service community, and it's almost limitless in terms of the will to help others. It has made all the difference to me in helping me make my choices and indeed shaping future opportunities as I look to launch my business.

“The support of the former servicemen and women has made me incredibly proud to be part of the Service community and determined to uphold the tradition by helping any Service leaver I can, in whatever way I can.

Find out more about a career in financial services

“Since joining the St. James's Place Academy, the support has been excellent. As a mechanism to start a business in financial services, I can't imagine a better option for those with the determination to succeed.”

For more information about St. James's Place Academy, visit