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Getting to know Metfriendly's Darin Birmingham

Let us help you get to know the people who make up Metfriendly.

At Metfriendly, our staff are our greatest asset and the fantastic people who make up our business are what help to set us apart from the competition.

Our team is made up of individuals with an extensive background in finance and the police. It means we understand the day-to-day lives of officers, as well as the challenges and opportunities - financially and otherwise - that they face.

Darin Birmingham told us about his experience in his former role and how he continues to work for the police family through his role as a field officer at Metfriendly.

Our aim is to support officers, their families and the wider community of the Metropolitan Police around their financial needs to improve their financial stability - and it's people like Darin who help us to achieve that. Here's what he had to say:

Metfriendly: Please could you tell us about yourself and your background; how many years did you spend as a serving officer and what were some of your experiences?

Darin: During my 30 years service for the Met, I started at Tooting in south-west London in the first four years as part of the local crime squad. After that I joined the Territorial Support Group and I was involved in things like the poll tax riot; I learnt surveillance and other skills around covert policing.

After that I was a town centre police officer, dealing with commercial crime. After that I made a short excursion down to Sussex police for 18 months, I then came back as a Detective Constable in the Murder Squad where I was a Family Liaison Officer (FLO); I dealt with major incidents, such as 7/7 and the tsunami that took place in 2004.

After becoming a Detective Constable, I served on the Homicide Command in south London. I sat the Sergeant's exam and became the Football Intelligence Officer at Millwall Football Club. That was extremely rewarding. During that time I was sent to the World Cup, enforcing banning orders out of Germany; I worked in close proximity with foreign police forces in general.

I was then posted to Croydon, where I was an Intelligence Sergeant leading a front-line, cutting-edge team dealing with engagement with young people, young men, on the streets of Croydon. I was policing stop and search operations, such as dealing with county lines nominals, also breaking the cycle - getting people off the streets. Helping to stop people getting dragged into the gang culture, gang scene. We were bringing young people home to their mums and dads, building links and working with their parents. Due to that, we improved the situation in Croydon by 50 per cent in a year.

We built strong relationships with the local gangs; on previous occasions, people/gang members would always want to deal with things themselves, but they trusted us so much that we ended up dealing with those people - getting them incarcerated, taken off the streets so they were no longer a threat to other kids on the streets of Croydon.

We also linked in with the local prisons; we were in a position to move gang members and not let them build up, because a lot of the disorder and activity that takes place in the prisons are gang members. We were able to fragment them and take away their power; we would isolate them as much as possible and send them further afield, to reduce violence in the prison service.

Because of the tactics and the way we went about our business and the success we had, I was tasked with setting up a London street gangs unit. So at every pinch point, every area where there were incidents of extreme violence between travelling gangs, knife crime, our team would interject, working with police and other agencies to stop that. Also to quell and deal with people travelling down into the home counties, delivering drugs; we had really good results doing that.

I've also been around the world; I spoke on behalf of the Metropolitan Police in Atlanta on how to deal with incidents such as 7/7 and 9/11 - how we compared to them and how we supported families after major incidents. That was a really good thing to do.

And that was 30 years; it went in a blink. I was commended 23 times.

M: What would you say have been the most rewarding aspects of a career in the police service?

D: Being a policeman is having a different experience every day, but the common denominator is that you're there to help people. You do that by various degrees; it could be someone committing a minor road traffic offence and just a few words of advice would do because they're the good people of society.

It could be you're arresting someone that you're watching in the street; he's moving a little bit quicker than everybody else, he sees you out of the corner of his eye, you'll then want to go and speak to him. You chase him, then 90 seconds later, you've stopped him and he's got a big knife and rocks of crack cocaine tucked in his underpants - and that happens on an awful lot of occasions to police officers across London every day. It's just about having that inclination to look at someone and think 'I need to speak to you'.

One of the nicest experiences I had; I went to the report of a burglary when I was at Wimbledon with a couple of my colleagues a few weeks before Christmas. I went to a house where a lady had absolutely nothing, the place was bare. She had a couple of young children and all the Christmas presents had been stolen. She worked out that it was her brother who was a local heroin addict.

It was really, really devastating, but the police is full of good people - not just the officers, but the staff who hold everything together as well. We went around, my colleague and I, not just our police station but those around London. It wouldn't have taken a lot of money to replace what was stolen because the lady didn't have much, but we raised more money and gave it all to the family. That was a really great thing, again, the Metropolitan police doing what it does best - looking after the people of London.

M: What does your role at Metfriendly involve?

D: My current role for Metfriendly is a Field Officer; I have the remit to go out and talk to people from day one when they join the Metropolitan Police Service. From day one, right up through 30 years, dealing with people who are just about to end their time in the police and are going on to new things. Where do they go next? What do they do with their money? I help people to understand their options, how it all stacks up - this is how you can live your life, if you're sensible with your money.

I'm committed to the role as a field officer because the Metropolitan police is a family. It's a family that I was part of for 30 years, and even though I'm out of the police service now and have been for the last six years, it's close to my heart. I speak to friends who are still part of the organisation and it's full of the best people. The police service is full of the best people in society, because when they see or hear of people needing help, they run to help, they run to danger at all other costs.

M: You've trusted Metfriendly with your savings throughout the years... Tell us more.

D: When I joined the police in 1985, we were given lots and lots of papers to sign. We signed for our joining of the Police Federation, our pension and they signed us up automatically for a savings plan.

What was happening there was that you were being, basically, financially set up for the rest of your life. Thirty-five years later and I can look back and I think, thank god I signed for it all. Because it's really good peace of mind to have a pension, to be in the federation - because that's an insurance in itself - but an added advantage to that was also signing up for a savings policy.

Everything comes out at source, so you never actually miss that money, and it's always shown on your payslip where you are. Five years later, you get a payout and you think 'I didn't know I had that much'! It's always nice to have money in your pocket; it pays for a holiday, it pays for something nice, maybe it's a deposit on a new car.

The saving that I did enabled me to put deposits down on new cars; as a young man, everyone wanted a fast car and I was no different. I also saved to be able to buy a house, there's always things like solicitor's fees and costs that need to be covered.

It's always good to have money to spend; it can give you more options and more choices in life. You don't want to be pushed into something because you don't have the money. If you've got money, you've got all the options in the world, and that's really what it's about.

M: How easy did you find it to save money as a serving officer?

D: You know exactly where you stand after you've been paid because, as I said, it all comes out at source. Your savings policy and all your outgoings are shown on your payslip - there's no additional monies to come out.

Being a police officer, you're always going to be in a position where you're working late or overtime and there'll be all sorts of ways where additional money comes in. So, when I was in a position to earn overtime, I saved as much as I possibly could.

Back in my time, an hour's overtime was £25 and on a ten-year savings plan that's tax free. If you want to do four hours overtime that's £100; that's enough to add to a Lifetime ISA. So, if you're looking at buying a property, that's a great thing to be able to do - pay £100 a month into a Lifetime ISA because you then get a 25% bonus on that from the Government.

So, money makes money and you should always be saving for a rainy day. Always give yourself those choices in life, where you can afford things and do things.

M: Are you currently saving? If so, what are your savings goals for the future?

D: I retired at 49 years of age and I still have a ten-year savings plan, my wife has a ten-year savings plan with Metfriendly and I also have some money invested in Lump Sum ISAs.

Despite retiring at 49, I won't receive state pension until I'm 67, so it's about still saving for the future; saving so that we have choices, so we can have holidays, so we can maximise our life enjoyment and also, perhaps, for a rainy day.

M: What do you see are the benefits of saving with Metfriendly?

D: The benefits of saving with Metfriendly are that it's there for us, for people who have and have had connections with the Metropolitan Police. You may have been a previously-serving officer, you may be a serving officer, you may be from the civil staff or you may be related, for any other these parties, it's there for us.

Metfriendly is always at the end of the phone, everyone is valued by the Society and I really trust them. Everything we do is geared up so that person's needs for their life are catered for.

M: And finally, would you recommend saving with Metfriendly to others?

D: I would recommend Metfriendly, or the Metropolitan Police Friendly Society, all day long. I have massive pride in what we do.

We are there to help people, to travel with them through their policing journey and to prepare them, eventually, for when they come to the end of their career after 30 years; we help ensure they have so many choices available to them.

At Metfriendly, we have a team of field officers such as Darin, as well as customer service representatives with whom you can discuss your saving, investment and protection options.

If you'd like to speak to someone, just complete this simple and secure online form with your details and we'll arrange for someone to get in touch and set up a meeting at a time and place convenient to you.

Alternatively, call us on 01689 891454 or email us at enquiries@metfriendly.org.uk.


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Topics: Pensions & Retirement, Savings & Investments, Making the Most of your Money, News

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