How to Start a Career in Financial Planning
Unlike some careers, the path to becoming a Financial Planner isn’t always well spelled out. Yes, you’ll need the right education to get started, but the rest can feel a bit like a mystery. Different organisations may list varying requirements for Financial Planning positions, making it hard to determine which degrees or certifications will actually help you get ahead in this career path. To assist you on starting a career in Financial Planning, here are some tips that will allow you to take off on the right foot.
Financial Planners need specific skills (such as basic accountancy and attention to detail) and a strong knowledge base (which includes a working knowledge of Australian tax law, financial markets and behavioral finance to mention a few key areas) to do their job well. Given the specific nature of their role, many of these skills can be gained through a good education. Your first step to becoming a qualified Australian Financial Planner is therefore to earn a degree in a related field – such as Griffith University’s Graduate Certificate in Financial Planning, which can be completed online.
Depending on which university you complete your bachelor degree with, you’ll likely find a program focused on Financial Planning. But, if that’s not available at this level, start by majoring in Accounting, Business, Economics, Finance, Law, or Mathematics. Focus your coursework on key areas like Estate Planning, Investing, Risk Management, and Taxation to give yourself a solid foundation.
Continuing on to get a master’s degree is a smart investment that can help distinguish you from your competitors in a dynamic job market. One study option to consider is the 2-year, online Master of Financial Planning available through Griffith University. Featuring short 6 week teaching periods, this accelerated degree will let you continue gaining valuable work experience whilst studying, helping you to graduate sooner and reap the rewards of all your hard work.
Being certified isn’t necessarily a requirement for working in the Financial Planning field, but it will certainly help you access better job opportunities with more reputable firms around the country. One of the most popular options is the global Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Certification offered by the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) – the peak industry professional body. Gaining the CFP Certification demonstrates you have the right skills and expertise to work in this field, making you more attractive to potential employers. It’s also recognised in 26 other countries, meaning you can take your skills and experience with you! There are experience requirements before you are eligible, so keep these in mind as you begin working, so you can take the exam as soon as you qualify.
Since the Corporations Act Amendment (Professional Standards of Financial Advisors) Bill become law in 2016, to practice Financial Planning in Australia you will now need to meet a series of basic professional standards, as well as being licensed to sell investment products such as bonds, insurance, mutual funds, or stocks. The license required for Financial Planners is the AFS (Australian Financial Services) License granted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
New Professional Standards
The new professional standards all practicing Australian Financial Planners are required to meet following recent reforms to the Corporations Act, will be implemented progressively over the next 7 years. As federal Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer MP explains, these changes are “the first important step on the road to professionalism” for the industry and “will establish a standards body, as a Commonwealth company limited guarantee, to set education standards, (a) professional year and continuing professional development requirements,”. These are measures which the FPA (Financial Planning Association of Australia) has long championed and should be kept in mind as you plan your future career. It also goes without saying completing a Masters of Financial Planning will position you well ahead of these reforms being implemented, as your knowledge base will be considerably expanded!
- From July 1st 2017 – an independent standards setting body has been established to set the educational and ethics standards for all Australian Financial Planners.
- From January 1st 2019 – all new Australian Financial Planners will require a degree or to undertake a professional year (of work experience) and pass a related exam.
- By January 1st 2019 – all Australian Financial Planners, both new and currently practicing, will be required to complete Professional Development, be subject to a code of ethics (from January 1st 2020) and successfully pass a related exam (by January 1st 2021).
- By January 1st 2024 – all Australian Financial Planners will be required to have undertaken additional study to meet these new educational and ethical standards.
Landing a Job
Once you’ve finished your initial education in Financial Planning, you should now have the proper credentials to get a secure a full-time role in this field. Often, you’ll need to find an entry-level position that allows you to gain experience and apply your skills in a dynamic, real-world environment.
Don’t stress about finding the perfect opportunity for your first job. Just try to find an employer that will give you a chance to hone your skills and work with people who will help you learn along the way, and won’t necessarily have you focused on acquiring your own clients from the very beginning. This will let you transition into your new career more smoothly, ensuring you have everything in order before you take the next step and really make your mark.
Then, as you gain experience and obtain certifications, you can explore new opportunities that offer you more of what you’re hoping to find for the rest of your career, whether that be working for a large firm or striking out and starting your own Financial Planning business.