Named as the 2022 ‘Paraplanner of the Year’ by St James’ Place, Albanian-born Sajmira Cairns, Head of Paraplanning at PFP Wealth, has carved an illustrious career for herself within the UK finance industry over the past 13 years.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role.
I was born in Albania and had few career opportunities available when growing up. I moved to England where I completed my economics degree, I later achieved first-class honours in Business Studies, as well as a Level 7 master’s degree in Wealth Management. I have faced numerous challenges, including the language barrier and balancing motherhood with my work, but I never gave up on my career aspirations.
I am now head of paraplanning at PFP Wealth Group Ltd and have since built a strong team of highly skilled paraplanning professionals. I think it’s important that we continue to build strong relationships with advisers and colleagues, creating effective communication flows, and going above and beyond to provide exceptional service.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Initially, I wanted to be an accountant. When I graduated, I remember handing my CV out around Liverpool in the hopes of securing a job. I landed my first role with an agency, helping them to work through the backlog of asylum seeker applications. I knew it wouldn’t be my lifelong career, but I enjoyed it at the time.
From there, I transitioned into the world of finance as a Performance Analyst at Rathbones Investment Management, before making my way over to Plus Group, which is where I began my journey as a paraplanner. Fast forward to 2019, I joined PFP Wealth as a self-employed paraplanner and have never looked back.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Plenty! The problems I’ve encountered have only helped me to grow. In Albania, there weren’t that many opportunities for women growing up. When I first moved to England, I struggled a little bit with the language barrier, but I didn’t let that stop me from getting where I wanted to be. I also wanted to start a family while excelling in my career wasn’t something I thought would be possible. However, through hard work and my determination to succeed, I’ve been able to overcome the hurdles that were once in my way.
How did you persevere through the tough times?
Through continuing to work hard and with the support of my family.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
In my personal life, my biggest achievement being a mum to my son. From a professional standpoint, I’d have to say building a successful career while still having time to be a present mother and looking after my son. I was recently promoted to head of paraplanning at PFP Wealth and have since been named St. James’s Place Paraplanner of the Year for 2022.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
As cliché as it sounds, continuing to work hard and not giving up when things got tough is what has seen me through. The unwavering support of my husband and the passion I have for my job have also been contributing factors to my success.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
As head of paraplanning of my own division, I love being able to support our staff members with their own career journeys. I believe that it’s important to have an experienced paraplanner to help and guide you when you first start out as a trainee. I love my job and I love that I am able to help others make a successful career within the financial services sector and beyond.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for gender parity, what would it be?
For more women to be given the opportunity to join senior leadership roles. While gender parity in higher-paid positions is starting to become more balanced, I believe that if all women — whether they’re just starting out in their careers or have ten-plus years of experience — are aware of the paths they need to take to climb the ladder successfully, we can further accelerate the pace of change.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
To have faith in yourself — hard work, ambition and determination will always pay off.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is further building and managing a successful team of paraplanners within PFP Wealth. I hope to achieve this by working closely with new trainees and helping them progress in their roles, by sharing the knowledge and expertise that I have built up over the years.
I am also part of the senior management team within PFP Wealth, and I attend board meetings which help me learn more about the business as a whole too, I hope to become more involved with the company in the coming years.
Read more from our inspirational women here.