Ex-England and Leeds Rhinos star Ewan Dowes is now helping business and rugby folk with wealth management. Seeing as that ticks both boxes for the RBN, we caught up with Ewan for a chat about the challenges facing professional sportspeople and his transition from rugby.
How did you become a professional rugby league player?
I played rugby union when I was young and that led to me winning a sport scholarship to Sedbergh School, where the likes of Will Carling and Will Greenwood went and, more recently, James Simpson-Daniel and Phil Dowson. After doing my A-Levels and representing England Schools I was scouted by Stuart Lancaster, who asked me to join the Leeds Academy.
While I was at Leeds, I was asked by Johnny Caddick, a good friend of mine and the son of Leeds Rugby Chairman Paul Caddick, to join the Rhinos U21’s training to help me keep fit during the summer as I was involved in the U19 World Cup.
I’d never even watched League, but as a fairly mobile Union prop who liked to make tackles and get his hands on the ball, I loved the game and ended up being offered a dual contract where I could play for either the Rhino’s or the Tykes. I chose the League route almost immediately.
Did you ever look at playing Union again?
I considered it, but I was enjoying Rugby League too much. I learnt my trade at Rhinos, played in the first team and stayed for four years before joining Hull, where I spent the next nine years, during which time we won the Challenge Cup and I represented England several times.
Did such a long career give you time to plan for life after rugby?
It should have done and I’d always had a clear plan in my head of what I wanted to do. I’d started a sports science degree in 2007/2008 with a view to being a strength and conditioning coach when I retired, but when I wasn’t offered a new contract by Hull in 2011 and no other offers were coming in, it cut short my full-time career and my retirement plans.
I decided to head to Australia for nine months, playing semi professionally in the NSW Cup for Illawarra Cutters. At that point I was just enjoying the lifestyle change with my wife, Amy, whilst doing the odd job here and there for a bit of extra cash.
When did you have to really plan for your next career?
My move to Australia was only delaying the inevitable of having to make the transition into the real world. I chose to move back to the UK and didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I couldn’t afford to move back into my old house that I’d rented out, so it was far from ideal. We had our first child in Australia two weeks before we travelled back to the UK, so that was tough in itself along side not being able to move into our old home and having no job or income. It was certainly a situation I never thought I would get into.
Workington Town offered a part-time playing contract and were actively looking for jobs for me. Around that time, another League player, Richard Varkulis, said that he’d got on in the financial industry without initially having any sales or industry experience and he helped me make a start with Metlife.
How did you find the switch to the financial world?
I was still training three times per week and playing on Sundays, but I spent my free time going round to amateur rugby union and league clubs, talking to players about getting suitable insurance in place to cover them if they were unable to work through an injury (a huge problem for players, especially if they’re self-employed).
Having played the game and gained a great deal of the social skills that usually come with that, I was at an advantage when it came to being able to interact and relate with clients and provide the best insurance plan for them.
How has it been going since then?
I did 18 months with Metlife, but I still didn’t have any qualifications behind me, so I started to look for options to further myself and my career. I ended up talking about my mortgage to a partner at St. James’s Place Wealth Management and he mentioned the academy they run for non-industry individuals.
They provide a two year program which involves gaining the relevant qualifications to become a financial advisor whilst learning the day-to-day intricacies of the job, essentially getting you in a position where you can launch your own business and begin to build your own client bank. It seemed to be the perfect fit, so I applied for a place and was lucky enough to get one.
I now work for myself as an Associate Partner Practice of St. James’s Place Wealth Management.
How’s your first year as a business owner been going?
It’s been a challenging, but great a year. After long discussions, I signed a deal with the Rugby Football League to be their trusted partner, so I’ll be up and down the country running financial planning seminars for professional players.
As part of the deal, every player in the Super League is entitled to a financial health check. This is where I analyse their current situation and see where I can help them get in the best possible position for retirement from professional sport and the tough transitional phase they will be faced with.
Who do you work with?
Obviously I benefit from having a lot of friends and contacts in the rugby world, but I also work with non-sporting business folk from all kinds of industries and backgrounds. When it comes to the players, it’s not just the big earners who need help managing their finances.
Ideally, if I can work and educate the younger generation before they go on to earn larger sums, they will get a far better understanding of what they need to do. Getting the players into good habits and disciplines financially is a must whether they are at the start, middle or end of their career.
Plenty of guys that play semi-professionally make very good clients. Lads who get paid to play on a part-time basis and have a second income outside of rugby can make perfectly good livings and probably realise earlier than the top players that they need to be careful with their money.