The five things you need to know about a career in financial planning

There has never been a greater time to pursue a career in financial planning. A broader marketplace combined with a decline in practicing advisors, has offered up a range of new opportunities for individuals looking to make their mark within the profession.

With peer-to-peer competition at its lowest level in years, and the requirement for advice growing, Victoria Hicks, looks at five things you need to know if you’re thinking of taking up a position within this varied and rewarding sector.

Only 15 years ago the financial advisory sector was ‘home’ to more than 20,000 practitioners, and competition was fierce. But an aging population and stricter regulations – particularly as a result of the retail distribution review (RDR) – has seen that figure shrink to around 25,000 planners in recent years, with many of the ‘old guard’ retiring and less talent coming from other professions.

At the same time, regular changes in legislation and tax allowances, as well as an increase in demand for even more complex advice, is creating a wealth of opportunities as individuals look to take hold of their financial futures.

1. Change is afoot

Historically, many workers adopted a ‘job for life’ mentality, which tended to come with good pension and retirement schemes to boot. With this safety net diminishing, there is a need for people to take far better care of their finances from an early age, providing a great opportunity for advice.

Additionally, the industry as a whole is seen as less of a male-dominated, sales-led business, and more of a profession whereby clients select an advisor they trust – and like. Empathy combined with a clear moral code is central to a successful career in financial planning, as customers look for someone to understand their current situation, as well as their ambitions for later in life.

Women are doing particularly well in this sector. An uplift in financially independent females – either as a result of a career or marital separation – has generated an increase in demand for advice from the same gender.

2.Nail your niche

As the numbers are skewed towards financial planners, it may be wise to specialise in a sector which interests you, rather than having to be a jack of all trades.

Research what it means to work in this profession, and delve deeper into the areas you want to operate in. You might choose to oversee investments and pensions – looking at a person’s entire situation and creating a long-term, holistic plan to evolve with them; or you could be considering a specialism in mortgages and insurance, later life planning or estate planning to name but a few of the more specialist areas.

Once you’re qualified though, it’s important to tailor any further training and development to suit your ambitions and consider those exams or accreditations which are sought after by other professionals who are also operating in your market, such as legal or tax professionals. With training above and beyond the standard level, you’ll be in a strong position to win business both directly with the clients, as well as from other professional partners.

Specialist accreditation from organisations such as Resolution, The Society of Later Life Advisors (SOLLA), The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) or Certified International Financial Accountant (CIFA) are all a great place to start.

3.Don’t ignore the basics

Of course, everyone wants to enter into a career and be operating at the very top of their game after the first year – or in some cases, from day one! But it’s important to gain some ‘real world’ experience, before you start to climb the proverbial ladder.

Firstly – and particularly if you’re new to the world of financial planning, it’s important to decide whether you want to work on an employed or self-employed basis, and if you’re looking to operate as an independent or restricted advisor. It’s worth thoroughly researching into the nuances of each option, before deciding which best reflects your long-term personal and professional ambitions.

Don’t be afraid to get an admin or paraplanning role at the start of your career either. It’s crucial that financial advisors understand how a business operates and gain some ‘life experience’, after all, successful company owners will look to someone with a level of worldliness before placing trust in them.

4.Think outside the box

A successful career isn’t as prescriptive as it used to be. A lot of firms are looking for colleagues who can bring demonstrable skills which aren’t always overtly linked to financial planning.

An understanding of people, a strong moral compass and excellent time management has seen those from legal, military and sports backgrounds have long and illustrious careers in financial planning, thanks, in part, to their innate drive and dedication.

Furthermore, there is a lot of discussion around environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing. Individuals no longer simply look for a positive financial outcome, but they are interested in the wider implications their assets might have in promoting global issues, such as climate action. Through your own research, if this sort of area is of interest to you, take the time to learn about those companies active in this market and which share your wider personal and social goals.

5.You never stop learning

The economic climate is evolving at a rapid rate, and it’s important to remain at the sharp end of the profession in order to flourish.

The FCA Register is also a wealth of information when looking into authorised firms and people, and also try to make a habit of visiting the FCA’s website on a regular basis, connecting with relevant people, and pages, on LinkedIn, and reading profession updates.

It’s all too easy to discard a daily news summary landing in your inbox when you have a to-do list as long as your arm – but it’s important to be in the know.


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