So, you want to become a financial adviser?

I often use this blog to share my thoughts with the financial planning community – but this post is for those of you who’ve not yet become advisers and wondering whether it’s the career for you.

So I’m stepping back in time and putting my ‘financial adviser’ hat on again, to put together this introduction to the industry.

Let’s define the different roles within advice, share what a typical day in the job might look like and also outline some popular entry routes for those thinking of joining the profession.

Job titles

Job titles can be confusing. Some job titles you have heard before may include:

  • Financial planners

While an IFA will advise you on a product – for example, whether to take out this investment or that pension – financial planners help you to create a pathway to your goal. After the client has given the planner some information about their long-term financial goals and current income and expenditure, whether in-person or via software or a robo, a financial planner will then outline the steps to take.

  • Financial advisers (and Independent Financial Advisers, or ‘IFAs’) 

Think of your financial adviser as being your ‘problem solver’. After conducting extensive research into your personal financial situation and recommending practical steps, your financial adviser will present you with a solution that will solve your query or problem, whether it be how to try and prevent your children paying inheritance tax on the property you leave them, or how to spend your recent lottery win. IFAs may work for a firm and provide an independent service underneath that umbrella, or exclusively work with their own clients or start their own company.

  • Restricted advisers

A restricted adviser is a financial adviser who will only provide advice in certain areas, such as pensions, for example. Your restricted adviser may recommend certain products, or product providers, but only in the specific field in which they advise.

  • Paraplanners

These well-organised folk are often considered the ‘machine behind the man or woman’. They are largely responsible for administrative duties, allowing the financial planner to spend more face-to-face time with a client. A paraplanner’s duties could include preparing reports for clients or logging client information.

  • Financial coaches

A client will usually present to a financial coach ideas of how they want their future to look and/or a particular problem they have with money (for instance, out-of-control online shopping), in the hopes of solving it. Armed with this vision, the financial coach will help the client to figure out if they have any limiting beliefs around money that might be contributing to their problem, such as, ‘I have to spend it all at once or I will never get to enjoy it’, a belief which leads to overspending. In the same way that a counsellor would help clients to realise how a traumatic event sabotages other areas of their lives, a financial coach could ‘get deep’ and explore what any underlying issues and will then coach the client on things such as their relationship with money and how it might have come about.

Realities of the industry – good and bad: 

Let’s start with the good;

  • High income capability
  • Variety of work
  • Rewarding
  • Flexible
  • Freedom of approach – no two firms are the same when it comes to client management, apart from ensuring that work is carried out in accordance with the FCA’s regulations, of course.

And the not so good…

  • Potentially high-stress environment due to personal involvement with clients and their money woes
  • Regulatory requirements mean that advisers must constantly renew qualifications and study for courses in order for their licence to remain valid.

A typical day as a financial adviser: 

If a financial adviser is presented with a client who wants ongoing support, as opposed to a one-off appointment, the adviser will be responsible for the maintenance of the ‘case’ or file, including reviewing client’s existing investment/wealth portfolios, answering ad hoc queries, research, face-to-face meetings, emails and other correspondence. The financial adviser will simultaneously be taking on new clients and providing tailored advice to each individual as per their situation.

Specialisms:

If you’re alive (spoiler: you are!), then you know that there is an abundance of challenges involving money throughout people’s lives. Financial advisers can narrow their focus and specialise in areas like:

  • Saving for retirement
  • Saving and investing
  • Property purchase and mortgages
  • How to make the most of a lump sum
  • Changes of circumstances which affect client finances
  • Bespoke needs specified by the client.

Typical routes to entry:

Many financial advisers will have a bachelor’s degree and A-levels in a field such as finance, economics, business, statistics or similar.

Graduates can start to apply for entry-level jobs, internships, or graduate schemes – all of which include training and will usually involve you shadowing top-performing consultants.

If you’re edging away from the idea of university, you can by all means dive straight in and join a company, working your way up. To do this, you will need to have passed a Level 4 qualification in financial advice, which has been recognised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Whichever avenue you choose, you will also be subject to passing enhanced background (DBS) checks. And of course – if you want to be an IFA you will still need to have all of the above, but you will source your own clients.

Remember, things like work experience in a financial environment will also be beneficial and may give you that extra edge over other candidates when it comes to landing a role.

Recruitment sites such as REED and Milkround are great for entry-level roles, grad schemes and internships.

Finally, financial advisers sort of help to make the world go round and can provide solutions and stability to people who need it the most; making for an eventful and very rewarding career!

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