Sam Farnell’s mini biography

By Chancellor

I joined Chancellor probably sometime in 2011 as a file organiser – that should have been my job title for the few weeks each year that my Dad, Grant who many of our readers will know, asked me to come into the old office on Chorley New Road to occupy me during the school holidays. Putting files in alphabetical order and archiving old ones. I find it quite amusing that now in 2021, ten years on,  I am still working here, progressing my exams and doing my best to improve my knowledge to help people plan their finances.

Working with my Dad was not what I envisaged as I grew up. I never liked coming in to put files in alphabetical order, but I had no problem in doing the job. He has always helped me in life and continues to do so to this day.

I was born in Newport, Wales after my parents moved there for my Dad’s work. It didn’t take long for them to move back to Yorkshire which is when Jack, my brother showed up. We had a decent relationship as we grew up together, (mainly involving him doing something naughty and then blaming me!). We often had organised wrestling matches in the living room much to our parent’s dismay.

We both went to the local school in Meltham and I worked as much as any kid at that age, waiting for lunchtime so I could get outside playing football with my friends! My evenings were spent playing more football or watching my favourite show Dragon Ball Z.

I didn’t see my Dad much during the week, not that I can remember, he always seemed to work late hours doing what he called ‘important client work’ or was off playing rugby. The latter of which he introduced me to by taking a junior coaching role and taking me to go play from the age of 7. I learnt all the basics from him to the point where I was a half-decent player for a kid. I still remember him having to warm my hands up every week because they were so cold!

When it came time to leave Meltham Junior School, I had various options available to me due to how hard my Dad had worked, we went for a look around the local high school where almost all my friends would be going, I also went to go look around two Grammar schools, both in Wakefield, Silcoates and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS). I sat the exam for both and managed to pass both, I just then had to pick. I think I had a better impression from Silcoates but QEGS was known for its rugby and that was what helped me make my choice.

QEGS is about a 40-minute drive from where we live in Holmfirth, I’d catch the bus with my brother at 7.30 am to get to school for 8.30 registration. The school day finished at 4 pm and with the evening traffic, I would be getting home for 5ish, which some would consider as working hours.

My initial experience of my new school was not great, I came to QEGS as quite a positive person but I had a very difficult first year there and I lost a lot of my confidence, I didn’t know it at the time but I had real anxiety in my life for the first time. I became quite shy, quiet, kept to myself a lot.

On the positive side, I had gotten good at rugby, we used to play a lot, and over the five years, I’d played in various positions and went on two tours, one to Belgium and one to Belfast. My favourite lessons were easily Design & Technology, Art, PE and IT at school and my grades reflected it. I got A’s in all 4 subjects and managed to pass everything else. I knew at the end of this period I was ready for a change, I didn’t enjoy the long days and needed a change of scenery.  

I spent two highly enjoyable years at Huddersfield New College, I was reunited with a lot of my old friends from junior school, where I was mocked for my accent that I’d developed at ‘posh school’. It was all fun and games though, the subjects I picked to study were Graphic Art, Product Design, Sport and Business Studies. Out of all the lessons, I enjoyed Business and Product Design the most. My Product Design class featured a great bunch of classmates, I used to love going to lessons just for the banter. Business Studies I found the most interesting, and I think that made me good at it.

When it comes to deciding what you want to do after college it’s very tough if you don’t have a plan, the default recommendation at the time was to go to University, it’s what everyone seems to do. I had a couple of friends that were doing apprenticeships and getting real skills in engineering. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I opted to apply for both Business Studies and Product Design at University to keep my options open. I put together a CV and a portfolio of my work and sent it to 3 universities for Product Design – Newcastle, Nottingham and Leicester and Business Studies in Edinburgh. I was luckily invited to an interview at both Nottingham and Leicester,. It was not until a few years down the line I was clearing my mailbox out that I found Newcastle’s invitation in my junk folder! At my interview in Nottingham, they offered me a place there and then irrelevant of my grades. Both Leicester and Edinburgh required a benchmark for me to reach in my exams to guarantee my place.

This kind of made my decision for me, they were willing to have me even if I flunked my exams which meant something to me at the time and therefore I chose them to be my number one pick, with Edinburgh 2nd. Still unable to choose between the subjects!

My exams went well, I got good results and Nottingham would become my home for the next 4 years.

I moved into halls for my first year and began to get to know my coursemates, some of the best people I’ve ever met to this day are from my Uni days and we have reunions regularly despite us dotted around the country. I learnt the basic skill of technical drawing, how to create real-life products in 3D on a computer so that they can be manufactured, how to present to a room of people, understand a target market, how to generate a bill of materials and research parts, use a 3D printer and display your work professionally. A lot of these skills on the face seem very specific but there is so much overlap in different areas, even with what I do today.

Whilst I enjoyed Nottingham greatly it was too easy to come back on a Saturday to watch Huddersfield Town and enjoy a takeaway whilst catching up with my family. By this point I had another two siblings, Matt and Summer, they had started school by then and it was always good to see how they were doing.

The course I was on was what they called a sandwich year, where you take a year in industry after 2 years of study, I had been actively looking but couldn’t find anywhere that I wanted to be, I was adamant that I didn’t want to be someone’s coffee maker. I looked on Linkedin at the job section and one advert, in particular, caught my eye. There was a temporary job for 6 months in China. At the time I applied I didn’t think there was a chance of getting it, but a few days later I had an email asking if they could arrange a Skype interview. I did the interview and they said they would discuss it and come back to me. A few days later I had a job in China!

It was kind of scary straight away, I’d been on trips abroad with my family but nothing to this magnitude. A different language, a different culture. In hindsight, it was exactly what I needed to take me out of my comfort zone. I still remember being dropped off at the airport by my Dad, I was petrified. I had nothing to be scared of though, I quickly grasped the life there, I got a bank account, I got a bus and metro card, I joined the local gym and I was having fun. The company I worked for was located in Suzhou, about an hour and a half outside of Shanghai. The population of Suzhou is just over 10 million and is separated into different districts, the old town and the new, the old town is steeped in history whereas the new town was established in 1990. It’s crazy how quickly things develop there. In the time I was there they built an entire motorway.

The place I worked was located in an industrial site, at first, I lived and worked in the factory, they created a small dormitory room for me whilst I found my own place to rent. It helped that there was someone already working n the office who was from England, like me he had been at University a few years before. He helped me massively in the first few weeks by showing me round. I enjoyed my time in China but I was ready to come home back to England again once the 6 months were up.

When I came back to University I had one more year to finish which is where 70% of my grade would be made up from. Having worked a year in the industry was a great experience, but I found I was massively demotivated when I came back to my course, the stuff I was having to do now felt almost beneath me. I was ready to work and earn money. I stumbled through my last year, getting a result lower than my ability, but I was very happy for the life skills and memories I had made.

I was now at a stage where I was burnt out, I had worked so hard in the final few weeks before the assignment hand in that I needed a rest and clearly when you finish University you get just that – a break!

My brother and I love BBC’s Top Gear and the challenges they put on. I always said a dream job for me would be driving some of the cars they get to whilst travelling all over the world. In July we set off on our very own Top Gear style challenge, ‘The Mongol Rally’. We bought a car from a local car garage, a VW Polo for £600 with a free MOT. We got support from some local companies which helped fund the trip, we also ran some fundraising events as each team that entered had to raise a sum of money for charity to participate. We didn’t actually understand what we were getting ourselves into at the time, but it was one of the hardest/most fulfilling challenges I’ve taken part in. It took us a massive 11,472 miles through 17 countries to complete, experiencing 9 flat tyres, 2 broken wheels and 2 separate breakdowns along the way.

Having experienced the lows and highs of the rally I found myself back at my parents’ house, I had my CV and portfolio ready, ideally, I wanted to work closer to home if possible, I didn’t fancy relocating for work unless it was abroad and I quickly found out there weren’t many firms in the north of England that did product design. I wasn’t finding anything quickly and it wasn’t for the lack of trying, there were just no jobs. One day my Dad came home and said ‘you can come in with me next week rather than being sat at home all day’. I begrudgingly accepted on the promise that I would not just be sorting the filing cabinet out again – I needed some income. He had me a desk prepared and I got stuck into some basic tasks on the system, helping out with administration. I came in the next day and the next and the next and here I still am, much more experienced and much more capable.

From my past experience, I found I could help Chancellor out in ways perhaps many of the other staff couldn’t or didn’t have time for. I championed a digital portal for all our clients, giving them the choice of correspondence that wasn’t just in the post. I helped put in place a new back office system and create processes and streamline how we work as a firm, I help out with our marketing, and now I’m just beginning to dip my toe into actual advice. We have some fantastic staff at Chancellor I just thought we could be better and I try each day to see if there’s something else that we can improve on as a team to give clients a better overall experience.

I recently completed my apprenticeship in Financial Advice which has given me a Diploma in Financial Planning and is the qualification required to advise people about their finances. Although I’m not experienced enough for that yet, it’s something I’m looking forward to doing, I have already begun helping out with advice letters and when the Covid restrictions are lifted, hopefully, I will be able to experience some more client meetings. As I said at the start it was not my intention to do what my dad does at really any point in my life, but I find it challenging and rewarding. I have always been a solution finder, whether that be finding an alternative material for a product, or helping someone reach their financial objectives.