“THERE has been no master plan with my career.

“It has just been a series of steps and business alliances that I’m lucky have turned into good friendships with trust,” says Paul Gilsenan.

Those relationships have taken him a long way.

Loading article content

Mr Gilsenan, a financial planner, doubles as trustee and chairman of North-East charity Heel & Toe, which provides a range of vital therapies and support services for children with cerebral palsy and their families.

The former bank manager at Barclays, who is originally from Darlington, is now principal at his own eponymous company Paul Gilsenan Wealth Management, a partner practice of St James’s Place Wealth Management, based at Wynyard Business Park, Stockton.

His firm has six staff, including two mortgage advisers, with the business advising on more than £30m of assets for its personal and corporate clients.

He said: “With my financial advice business, it’s about forming long-term working relationships and always offering unbiased advice.

“In the end, I feel a huge sense of responsibility and always treat other people’s cash as if it were my own.”

“When I originally set the business up, I had no idea how I wanted to develop in terms of bringing on staff, but now I have a trusted and focused team around me, which is important as the financial services industry and the world around us has changed significantly in recent years.

“People are relying on me to help deliver them security in retirement, or put their children through school, or some other crucial desire that they value most highly.

“It’s never small requirements, so I’m always very clear about any risk.

“It would be easy to lose the trust with my personal and corporate clients that I have spent years building.”

Mr Gilsenan initially set up his business in Durham in May 2013, and it was there that he first met and became friends with Heel & Toe founder Paul Bannister and chief executive Doug Long.

He said: “After seeing first-hand their work with disabled children and their families, I wanted to get involved.

Mr Gilsenan not only became a trustee but also stepped up as chairman, a role he has undertaken for the last three years.

“We are the only charity in the region to deliver conductive therapy free of charge for hundreds of children with cerebral palsy from across the North-East, and we receive no Government funding for this, so we rely on support from the local community”, he said.

“I defy anyone who has seen the amazing impact this charity has on the children and their families to not want to help.

“The challenge is keeping up with the increasing demand from across the region and further afield without any financial support beyond donations.”

Mr Gilsenan was instrumental in helping Heel & Toe secure a £97,000 grant in 2016 from St James’s Place Wealth Management, vital funds that will pay for an out-reach nurse delivering therapy to children for the next three years.

He said: “Winning the grant was wonderful but the expertise that has been developed at Heel & Toe has meant many children and their families depend on the invaluable services the charity provides.

“We are attracting families of children with specific requirements with their disabilities from outside the region.

“As a result, the Footprints Appeal is aiming to raise over £280,000 for vital refurbishment work on the charity’s building in Perkinsville.

“The building includes the North-East’s only fully-equipped therapy centre, where families and children have the benefit of accessing a hydro-pool offered for use for therapist-client sessions, which is unique to the North-East.”

The Footprints Appeal aims to raise more than £280,000 for the first phase of renovating a second therapy centre in Perkinsville, there will be two further phases of additional fundraising to complete the building and include a hydro-pool.

To date, Heel and Toe has received financial donations amounting to £110,000 from Kavli Trust, Bradley Hall Surveyors and private funders.

Heel and Toe also supports children with physical disabilities with courses of intensive physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and Special Educational Needs tutoring from a base at their centre in Pelton, near Chester-le-Street.

“We’re asking local communities and businesses to get involved in our Footprints Appeal to raise money, which will enable us to restore the building we have purchased through our fundraising and provide vital therapy for disabled children from across the region”, said Mr Gilsenan.

“We have a range of donation options for businesses who wish to help.”

The Footprints Appeal will also be launching its own Crowdfunding page where businesses, communities and members of the public can donate at the click of a button.

Five minutes with… Paul Gilsenan

Favourite North-East building and why? As a Middlesbrough fan, I can only say one place. The Riverside Stadium. The Sage is a fantastic venue too.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? I worked in the kitchens at Darlington Golf Club, washing pots and helping the chef for the princely sum of £3 per hour. It was the early 90s though, so £15 went a long way.

What is the worst job you've had? I’ve only had four jobs and I have enjoyed all of them. I did try a paper round once, but I’m not a morning person, so in the short time I did it, I woke my mum up for a lift round. I didn’t last long doing that one.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? I would cook you a chateaubriand steak with home-made chunky chips, mushrooms and tomatoes, all washed down with a nice merlot.

What would your superpower be? To be able to fly.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Noel Gallagher, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? My wife’s engagement ring. She told me I couldn’t say.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? I’m not on Twitter, I don’t get it? 140 characters is not enough for me.

Favourite book? The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.

When did you last cry? Children in Need has me in pieces every year.

What is your greatest achievement? My son, Harrison.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? To be successful, all it takes is hard work, belief in yourself and more hard work.

Favourite animal and why? The great white shark. They fascinate me as I love the ocean and the fact we are so frightened of sharks generally.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? It’s a client, so I couldn’t break confidentiality.

What was the last band you saw live? Guns N’ Roses at Wembley, June 2017. I had wanted to see them with their original line-up since I was eight-years-old. It was incredible.

Describe your perfect night in: A few drinks, a takeaway and a good series on Netflix to watch with Tracy and Harrison.

In another life I would be... The lead guitarist in a rock band. They get all the girls…

Who would play you in a film of your life? Leonardo DiCaprio – not that I’m anything like the Wolf of course!

What irritates you? Disorganised people.

What's your secret talent? I played guitar for many years. I’m trying to teach Harrison now, but I’m a little rusty.