Former Worcester and Leicester lock Graham Kitchener has had quite the career change, after he hung up his boots in 2022. Kitchener has since swapped the rugby pitch for a life in financial advice, and has made a seamless transition into the rather unexpected post-rugby career.
Kitchener’s on-field tenure was spent entirely across the midlands, as he came through the ranks of the Worcester Warriors Academy. A talented all-round athlete, Kitchener also spent three years in the football academy of Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, yet chose to pursue rugby with his professional debut coming in the 2008/09 Premiership season. Speaking with his Financial Planning Partner Furley House Kitchener discussed his road into rugby.
“Professionally, I was very lucky and started at 18. I was linked to Worcester Academy and they offered me a contract straight out of school. In my first year, a couple of the other players got injured, so I ended up playing quite a lot for the first team and it just kind of went from there really.
“I never imagined that rugby was going to be my career, but it just kind of the way it happened, really. And it was a bit of a lucky break, but it was one I took advantage of and just kind of continued on that that path.”
Kitchener soon gained international recognition upon his break-out, and achieved England age grade honours with the U20s set-up. Following his first three seasons in the professional game, the lock also progressed into the England Saxons set-up, and won the 2011 Churchill Cup with the side. As Kitchener continued to progress, who garnered the attention of Leicester Tigers for a 2011 transfer to Welford Road.
Kitchener was apart of the Tigers squad that won the 2013 Premiership title, and scored a try at Twickenham as Leicester triumphed over Northampton Saints.
“I had three years at Worcester and then went to Leicester Tigers for eight years. There, I played some massive matches and big European games. We won the Premiership as well, so I had a great time. When I was 30, I moved back to Worcester Warriors. I thought it be a quite a nice way to sort of see out my career and my brother (Andrew Kitchener) was playing for them at the time as well, so obviously that was a big thing to play some games with him.”
In 2019, Kitchener returned to Sixways Stadium, however his return was curtailed by the unfortunate news of Worcester’s financial collapse. The Warriors became the first Premiership Rugby club to collapse in the 2022/23 season, with Wasps shortly following suit before London Irish folded at the end of the season. Thankfully for Kitchener, he had begun to put the plans in place for his career after rugby.
“I had signed a one year extension but unfortunately, Worcester went into administration in that year. So that was the end of my career. It certainly wasn’t the way I planned, but that’s the way things go sometimes.”
“When I moved back to Worcester we were lucky that one of the one of the players mums had taken on the role of helping the lads with work experience and setting them up outside of rugby. She encouraged us all to do look into other options and was really proactive with it.
“We did some tests and it pointed me in the direction of financial services, which was something I’d never really considered before. I had a look in to it and signed up to do the first exam, Financial Services, Regulation and Ethics (RO1). I actually weirdly enjoyed it, considering it’s the driest exam out of the six! That made me want to look into it more and investigate the financial advising aspect of the role. I just liked the look of it and the further I went down that path the more I found it attractive.”
Kitchener soon settled into his new career change, yet admitted that the move away from the changing rooms and floodlight pitches was a definite culture shock. The 34-year-old discussed the transition, to a less physical life away from the Premiership’s bruising collisions.
“I think it was always going be a bit of a culture shock for me whatever I did after rugby and going into a different industry I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
“I’ve really enjoyed speaking to clients and feeling like you’re making a difference for them. There’s a lot of admin, which I guess is to be expected, which is something I’m getting my head around!”
“Everyone at Furnley has been so welcoming and I’ve really enjoyed coming into the office each day which really makes a difference when you’re starting your job.”
“The structure of the week is certainly one thing that obviously I knew it would be different but is quite a big thing. When I was playing, we’d generally have Wednesday off, but then we were working Saturday potentially Sunday as well. So that sort of big block Monday to Friday and then having a weekend off is great.”
Kitchener has found a strong foundation with Furley House, and discussed the advice he would give to anyone that’s considering a career in his new industry. Kitchener was full of tips of the trade, regardless of whether any budding advisor had previously ran out for a game of professional rugby.
“I would say speak to as many advisers as you can to get an idea of what the job involves. Exams are one thing but they aren’t the be all and end all of the job and there is so much to it than that.
“If you’ve got time, I’d suggest shadowing someone for a day. If rugby players are looking to do it, we have Wednesdays off so that could be a time to go in and do a little bit of work. That will be as valuable, if not more valuable that getting the exams.”
“I would say to find someone you can talk to and get along with. Your adviser should be able to explain things simply and in a way you understand. They should also have a longer term vision and be interested in you and what you want to achieve, not just your pensions and investments.”
Kitchener then discussed why he chose to join Furley House, due to what they offered him from both a career and personal perspective.
“I did actually look around a few places before I came to Furnley House. First I met the Managing Director Stefan Fura and he had a chat with me, showed me around the office and introduced me to people. There was a really good atmosphere and everyone was really friendly. The office itself is great too and not too big or too small, so a nice balance. As soon as I walked through the office doors the first time, I felt I had a really positive feeling.
“The other bits that Furnley does, such as the charity work, was also really different to a lot of other advisers. They also offered me a lot of training and time to learn before fully becoming a financial adviser and taking on clients.”