Simon King | Wharf Financial Services
Simon’s entry as a Diamond is more unusual than most, given he has only been part of the bridging sector for the past nine months. But then not many of us can say we’ve raised the best part of half a million pounds for charity over the last decade. Since the age of 16 he’s had a passion for cycling, so in 2009 while at banking giant Lloyds he co-founded a bike team, the ‘Green Army’. Over the next seven years to 2016 Simon and the Green Army raised over £400,000 for charities including The Royal British Legion, Demelza Children’s Hospice, The British Heart Foundation and finally Bloodwise. For this last charity in 2016 the Green Army Bike Team took on two big rides, going from Carcassonne to Barcelona, across the Pyrenees, including the climb of Port D’ Envilira, the highest road in Europe at 2408 meters, as well as doing the London to Paris 24 Hour Challenge. The money he helped raise will have changed the lives of those relying on the help of his chosen charities. Yet Simon considers he has been the fortunate one: “I’ve been lucky enough to ride some of the most stunning roads in Europe, and make many new friends along the way,” he says. And he’s not done yet; Wharf Financial Services will be organising a ride as soon as the lockdowns are fully lifted.
Pivoting has been the buzzword of the pandemic as we have all tried to adapt as best we can to a very not normal situation. In May 2020, as the full horrors of coronavirus began to emerge, Simon found himself in his first ever break from full time employment since leaving school in 1977, following a lifelong career as a banker (and 41 years with Lloyds). Staring down the barrel of an at best uncertain jobs market, some in his position may have considered the middle of a global pandemic an apt time to bow out and retire. Not Simon. “One thing I knew for sure was that I was nowhere near ready to retire. I hate throwing anything away, unless it’s broken or worn out, so why would I throw away 43 years of experience in financial services?” he says.
What to do but join forces with someone else trying to relaunch themselves at the worst possible time? Marc Champ was setting up Wharf Financial and called to invite his old friend Simon in. “Once I’d picked it up, I loved it,” he says. Simon brings the enthusiasm for a challenge honed from his charity work into his new role in bridging, unafraid to face new hurdles, and learn new skills, late in his career. “What I love is while many banks will look at a proposal and say ‘no thanks – this isn’t one for us’, a broker has the opportunity to really spend time with the customer and consider all of the available options,” he says of his position switch.
You don’t come away from 40 years of banking without learning a trick or two. “The relationship is always more important than the transaction,” says Simon, pointing out his very first Trustpilot review was from a client who, after some discussion, didn’t actually proceed with his application, “but will be in a far better position to do so in a few months time”. His plan is to capitalise on his banking experience to set Wharf apart. “We have the expertise to cover all areas, from domestic franchise funding right through to International Trade Finance, so I think we should promote that and really differentiate ourselves from the competition,” he says. Reinvention in the middle of a global health crisis is no mean feat. “I’m learning a new job and have made a significant career change, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks!”