According to the House of Commons Library, household debt as a percentage of gross disposable income was 143% in the final quarter of 2015. With more people living longer without having planned for their future, financial planning should be an essential part of everyone’s toolkit.
What is financial planning?
Financial Advice, Financial Planning and Wealth Management have a shared aim – securing the financial future of a client, whether ‘the client’ is one person, a couple or a business.
Financial planning is all about people. This is one of the particularly rewarding aspects of the sector. The best financial planners work with their clients over decades to plan and secure a financial legacy for the client and their family. In doing so, they become good friends as well as trusted advisers.
A client’s financial planning needs will change over time to reflect and prepare for lifestyle – travelling, having children, marrying, inheriting money and perhaps buying a property in the earlier years; in later years, pension planning, paying off a mortgage, transferring wealth to children and maybe even travelling again at retirement. A client’s financial plan will change in harmony with the planned events, and can also respond to unexpected situations from lottery wins to illnesses.
A career in financial planning is hugely rewarding, in every sense of the word. Helping people plan and achieve their life goals over many decades, using a range of financial products, offers tremendous satisfaction as well as great career and earnings potential. It delivers incredible client variety and the flexibility to work for a small or large organisation anywhere in the country. For many, it is the ability to deal directly with people and create success that offers most satisfaction.
However, as the introduction shows, the UK does not currently enjoy a strong record of personal financial capability. The current level of personal debt stands in excess of £1.6 trillion, or more than £45,000 per taxpayer. While not all debt is bad (think mortgages), many people struggle to get on top of their finances – even those who have considerable wealth can be asset-rich and time-poor and need to receive high-quality advice. This is just one example of where a financial planner plays an important role.
Where can I work?
Some financial planners work with clients in a particular region; others specialise in sectors. For example, there are companies based in and around Aberdeen that work exclusively with those in the oil sector. Equally, there are companies that specialise in advising footballers and other sportspeople about the challenges of their job (short career, limited transferable skills, limited financial capability). Naturally, many companies have professional clients such as CEOs, lawyers, accountants and directors.
The sector has many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as some well-known larger companies such as Hargreaves Lansdown, Killik and St James’s Place which have billions of pounds of assets under management.
Roles in financial planning
The most common entry point in a financial planning company is as an Administrator – even as a graduate. This role gives you the tools to understand how the business is structured and offers access to everyone in the business so you can build your relationships and product knowledge.
The next step for many is the role of Paraplanner. A Paraplanner is an office-based professional who researches the financial markets to find the best products for a client, based on their meeting with a client-facing financial planner. For those who particularly enjoy working with data, a career in paraplanning is becoming more common; indeed, some businesses outsource this part of their work to specialist companies such as Para-Sols.
Paraplanners take a professional qualification that proves their technical knowledge, as well as giving them the ability to progress to a client-facing role should they wish.
Being a client-facing financial planner is the aim of many who enter the sector. Meeting the client, understanding their needs and appetite for financial risk, as well as seeing the results of advice given over many years, is extremely satisfying. Financial planners must hold at least a Level 4 qualification such as the CII’s Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.
Further professional development
Increasingly advisers (and indeed some paraplanners) are taking higher-level professional qualifications and seeking Chartered status. Strong links exist between accountancy, law and financial planning and that link with Chartered professionals offers a compelling reason to work towards this. For those who want to specialise at an academic level after completing professional qualifications, there are also postgraduate degrees in financial planning and wealth management from Cass Business School in London, or Manchester Metropolitan University.
The sector has, by its own admission, an older workforce than it would like. There are many financial planners looking to pass their business on to a qualified successor, rather than sell it to another business. As such, now is an excellent time to consider the sector as it is more outward-facing in its recruitment than it has been for decades.
Exemptions and credits
While nearly every graduate must complete the licence to practise qualification in full, CII credits are available to those holding a degree in the following disciplines:
- Actuarial Science
However, the sector is open to graduates from any discipline. While it is important to be comfortable working with numbers, it is just as important (some companies would argue more important) to have strong communication skills – particularly if you aim to be a client-facing financial planner.
Finally, in a people profession, networking is an essential part of business. Whether using your LinkedIn profile to connect with practitioners, or going in person to CII member-only networking events, it is never too early to make connections – and give yourself more visibility with recruiters.