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The life-changing magic of Sharon


Very rarely in life, you meet someone who changes everything. Often that’s our life partner, or maybe a mentor or guru – someone who changes our outlook on life.

Other than my wife of 27 years, Joanne – for me (CEO Pete Matthew) meeting Sharon Bray has turned out to be one of those handful of life-changing moments.

I’ll say a bit more about why that’s the case towards the end, but for now, here’s Sharon in her own words:

Give us a backstory of how you got to this point so far?

You might have already got a flavour of my background through some of the articles here on the Jacksons site, but I’ll give you a short life summary because how I grew up has definitely formed who I am today.

I was bought up in the clay village of St Stephen, on a farm for a good chunk of my younger years with the freedom of helping to look after the animals and the farm. I had a dog called Dimples that was my adventure companion, often walking around the farm, playing in the camps Dad had made for me and my big sister. I have many happy memories of her laughing at me for getting stuck up in tree (I don’t like heights!) - funny now, but not so funny then.

I was sport mad all the way through primary and secondary school. I also loved English literature but mainly, I wanted to be outside running. My mum often commented that even when I was sat still my legs were always moving! I went to college with the intention of becoming a PE teacher/sports psychologist, moving away to Cheltenham to go to Uni. I guess this is where I really grew up, having to work to support my education.

Following my degree, I started a PGCE because I always thought I wanted to be a teacher, this coming from the desire to help others develop their skill by understanding their talent better. About four weeks in when teaching a class (that to be honest was out of control!), I had a clear realisation that this really wasn’t for me. I love the coaching aspect but didn’t feel mature enough to be responsible for a group of growing teenagers! 

Throughout my Uni years, I played a high level of hockey that also gave me a life outside of Uni. I loved my time in Cheltenham - it’s such a beautiful town - but I missed home so much when I was away that I moved back to Cornwall fairly soon after graduating.

I picked up a job in a local bank (conveniently next to Perranporth beach) and worked my way through the different roles to become a financial adviser. Along my journey of working with clients to plan for their future, I rediscovered my love of developing and supporting others in the team which looped back around to an innate desire to coach. 

After some developing years as a paraplanner and working in compliance, the opportunity arose to come to Jacksons. I feel very privileged to be a part of this brilliant team, where I am 100% supported by Pete and Chas and have the freedom to grow along with everyone else. It really is a cool place to work!

What motivates you?

Helping others see their own potential. I have forever been fascinated by human psychology and the impact people’s minds can have on their everyday experience.

I want to help create an environment that allows people to flourish, that supports them in every way and that motivates them, this should be fun as well as focused! 

Challenging the norm is also important to me. I have worked in this industry for a long time and feel like it could be easy to repeat and replicate as a lot of companies do. In helping the company move forward, I want this journey to be thought-provoking and intentionally different to help us create a different option for people when it comes to their financial planning and their work life.

I actually enjoy change; I really see life as a constantly evolving journey. You should never stand still when there is so much to learn and experience.

What drew you to the role at Jacksons?

I think I had come to a point in my career where I needed something more. I had been made redundant from an adviser role at a couple of banks due to the shift away from regulated advice on the high street. I had adapted to a paraplanner role which also encompassed compliance and I definitely enjoyed the break from advising because it allowed me to decompress a little and think about what I wanted for my future.

After speaking informally to Chas, Pete (and Roger, now retired director), I felt a real meeting of minds which gave me an appetite to create something very cool. I definitely had some fear that I think we all get when we decide to move on and ask ourselves, ‘can I actually do this?’ 

They asked me to come and almost rethink the way the business ran, to make some fairly big changes and to bring the team along on the way! 

It was an easy path to take in the end because I played out the story of how this might go in my mind and it filled me with excitement and fun, while at the same time understanding how challenging it might be.  It’s not always the case that you meet the right people at the right time!

It truly has given me a different version of going to work and absolutely loving every aspect of my day.

What do you want for Jacksons and the Team?

Oh, great question - sooo much! Let’s start with the team because that’s at the core of Jacksons. Whatever the team do will naturally impact Jacksons’ future! I think it’s really easy as a business and as leaders to assume that everything is okay with the team and their happiness if they don’t say anything. I want to be far more proactive about that; I want to positively impact the people around me.

It’s important that everyone who works with us firstly feels valued and I mean really valued for their individuality and for what they bring to the team. We are a financial planning firm and everyone has a part to play in the client experience but finding the role that gives you the most joy and the best challenge is integral to feeling fulfilled. 

Secondly, it’s important to us that everyone has a voice and feels a big part of the decisions we make. Having everyone’s input into how we work with clients, how we grow together and how we create process is integral to what we do. Helping the team understand their importance to one another and the wider cause is a big part of the story.

We have an exciting second half of the year planned so I just want to make sure everyone’s feeling ready for the changes in the new office space and the new processes ahead, to continue to make it easier for clients to engage with us and for us to work more collaboratively in our new space. 

Long term, I just want us to continue to keep evolving, always listening always learning.

What are your plans outside of work for the rest of this year?

I actually have a routine operation coming up really soon so, firstly to recover well (thank you to the team for a long list of series to watch - some potentially questionable!)

Anyone who knows me knows that sitting still isn’t something I am used to! I like to keep fit so I already have a back-to-basics training plan in place which I am hoping will be fun!

It would be great to get some time in the campervan with Carm (my partner), surf a little and I am sure a few festivals. And then a trip to Sicily later in the year to spend some time with Carm’s family. I have been learning Italian via duo lingo for over a year so it would be good to test the basics!

OK, back to me (Pete) to round things up.

Sharon is a rare combination of skills in one person. She is extremely productive – she gets stuff done. But she also has an exceptional ability to read people and speak truth to them, in a way that makes them think and reflect.

Prior to Sharon’s arrival, I was responsible for the day-to-day running of Jacksons. I had co-directors of course and an excellent Office Manager, Sheila Timmins, who is now enjoying her retirement, all of whom helped me day-to-day. But I was buried in client work and so struggled to put in place any of the changes that I wanted to make – I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do it all.

Sharon has become the Integrator to my Visionary. Those terms were coined by Gino Wickman to describe the ideas person (Visionary - generally that’s me) and the person who gets those ideas done (Integrator).

What’s great about Sharon is that she is herself a Visionary as well as an Integrator - she shares my vision very closely, but isn’t afraid to challenge me where that’s necessary. I can’t tell you what a comfort it is to be working with someone who complements me so well.

The future is bright, and that’s down to Sharon’s can-do attitude and the brilliant team at Jacksons who have handled whatever we have thrown at them in the last three years or so.

Watch this space for MUCH more to come!

by Pete Matthew & Sharon Bray