Building a career in Financial Advice: Ben's Journey

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Last updated: January 23, 2023

‘How did you get into the industry?’ is a question I’m often asked. So, I thought it would be useful to share my journey with you and provide my thoughts on how best to start and develop a career in Financial Advice.

Like most people working in financial services, I never intended on a career in the sector. Despite the fact I love my work and have taken several qualifications in my time, I actually fell into it. I didn’t go to university and study finance or economics. Although university is a pathway into the industry, I share my story in the hope it provides inspiration for anyone who a) doesn’t want to go to university or b) is looking for a career change that doesn’t require becoming a student.

I studied A-Levels and, once I took my exams, wanted to secure an apprenticeship where I could learn and earn at the same time. I was searching for business and management roles when I came across a financial services administrator vacancy.

Fast forward 5-6 years and I was one of the youngest Chartered Financial Advisers in the UK, building up my own client bank to provide advice. I spent time in various roles, ranging from opening the post in the first few weeks as an administrator to writing complex reports once I qualified as a Paraplanner. I think my journey has been vital in helping me understand every aspect of the job.

Working as an administrator for a couple of years helped me to understand the advice process as a whole from the initial meeting with an adviser through to the back office where adviser recommendations are implemented. From here, I took a keen interest in paraplanning to help advisers by researching, analysing, and suggesting practical solutions for clients. It also involved putting the advice together via suitability letters.

I’ll be the first to admit, tapping away at a laptop was my least favourite part of the job and, the more I got involved, the more I enjoyed the client-facing elements. I particularly enjoyed helping out in meetings and presenting Cash Flow plans. Thus, my desire to become an adviser was sparked.

You can work your way up in the industry as I’ve described where the typical path is Administrator > Paraplanner > Adviser but there are some qualifications needed. The good news is, they can be studied for along the way.

There are 6 exams that are a minimum requirement for advisers. I took these with the CII (Chartered Institute of insurance) which is the most popular board for advisers. The exams took me around a year to complete and my employer paid for the CII online and print study materials plus the exams themselves.  There are some adviser academies available that essentially fast-track you through the 6 exams. That’s another route that people could explore.

To get signed off as an adviser, I also completed practical training and shadowing, helped out in face-to-face client meetings, and was eventually assessed in my own meetings. This was probably the most valuable part of my journey, not the exams!

Chartered Status requires another set of more complex exams plus five years of experience. My employer was pushing for advisers to achieve this so I quickly moved on to further study. I managed to complete the exams within two years, ticking off some additional ones along the way, taking my tally to eighteen qualifications in total.

The additional exams helped me to get points, which Chartered Advisers need to keep topped up each year to prove they are keeping up to date with the latest in the industry. You might have heard of people logging CPD (Continuous Personal Development) like training sessions they’ve attended or courses completed to maintain their Chartered status. This applies to many industries and Financial Advice is no different.

I was fortunate to join a company that helped me progress and my opinion is this is really the best route for anyone wanting to join the industry. There is a lack of younger talent coming through, and if you can join a practice that wants to train and develop you, that would be my advice. You learn on the job so have the added bonus of experience plus qualifications.

There are also some huge Financial Advice firms in the UK market, the likes of St James’ Place and Quilter. Although I don’t share some of their views on investing, or how they look after clients, their academies and training plans do look good, and they have the facilities and knowledge to help.

Although you can get the exams ticked off, my view is that no one should be giving independent financial advice without 5 years of training and experience. I also think that Chartered Status should be the benchmark. I’m still learning, and that will never stop especially with the need to complete annual CPD.

It is a really rewarding career, and you get a lot back from knowing you’re helping people make huge decisions in their lives. It’s a great feeling telling someone they can retire early, help their family financially, or simply go on that big holiday without worrying about money.

I’m always happy to speak to people who want to know more about the industry, especially as it’s not that well known amongst young people and could be a very viable career for them. Especially people that don’t want to follow a typical university to grad scheme route.

In the future, we’re hoping to recruit and train some budding financial advisers at Stephen Eve so watch this space!

For anyone wanting a head start, there are some great recruitment companies around and I follow this page on LinkedIn which talks a lot about advisers and how to get into the industry – it’s worth a look at. 

This content is for information purposes and should not be treated as financial advice. We would always recommend speaking to a professional before making decisions regarding your wealth.


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