Why it pays to train as a financial planner

Financial advisers have never been more in demand. So why not get trained up?
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The Independent Online

It might seem ridiculous to shell out money to help improve your finances, but for an increasing number of people, a financial planner can be the best answer.

Marlene J Shalton is managing director of Chambers Morgan James in Cardiff and specialises in financial planning. Her job is to help clients put together a plan enabling them to achieve their personal and financial objectives.

Shalton's job typically involves the use of cash flow forecasting, risk profiling and asset allocation, and examining and analysing a client's overall position. She works with her own team of six administrators and paraplanners (planners' assistants), while this might seem a lot, she says putting a plan into action can sometimes take months.

Paul Etheridge works for Prestwood, Etheridge and Russell Ltd, based in Stourbridge, the West Midlands and describes financial planning as, "the process of meeting life goals through the proper management of finances."

Expressed at a more fundamental level, he says, "it means ensuring that one never runs out of money even in the event of living to a great age or needing long-term care. This is not easy to achieve," but, he adds, "On a more positive level it means achieving and maintaining one's desired lifestyle." Etheridge believes that his is in one of the most rewarding professions: "One spends one's business hours helping clients to achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle. Many of my clients have been looked after by me for 25 to 30 years."

Etheridge believes that financial planners are going to become more and more necessary in the future. Most people are facing a huge problem in financing an eventual, adequate retirement income, he says, even if they retain good health. Etheridge also believes that there are not enough qualified and experienced financial planners to meet the demand.

It is actually illegal to officially give investment advice unless you have been recognised as an approved person by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). One of the best routes into financial planning is by finding work as a paraplanner before graduating to working with clients direct.

Working as a paraplanner it should be possible to do considerable on-the-job training and work up to certified financial planner (CFP) status.

Etheridge has an MBA and is a fellow of the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP) and the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) as well as a CFP. These days anyone seeking a professional qualification would initially aim to become either a certified financial planner or a chartered financial planner.

To become a CFP licensee, you must have a total of three years' relevant experience in financial planning, plus a successful pass in the CFP licensee assessment. You must also demonstrate 30 hours relevant CPD (continuing professional development) a year and sign up to the institute's code of ethics and practice standards. CFP licensee training courses cost from around £150 for the first assessment and £75 for subsequent assessments, plus manual costs. Alternatively candidates can opt for a fast-track four-day intensive course, which costs from £1292.

However, earlier this year Manchester Metropolitan University's (MMU) business school announced the first UK education programme for the CFP award. MMU's financial services degree is the first in the UK to offer a programme that will meet the pre-certification education requirement for the CFP award.

Financial planning can be a satisfying and rewarding career . "Clients are involved in the whole process," says Shelton. "It's about their lifestyle, their hopes and aspirations. It is great seeing the end results."

Contact the Institute of Financial Planning - www.financialplanning.org.uk - for details of courses and qualifications; contact Manchester Metropolitan University Business School - www.business.mmu.ac.uk - for information on its courses; other useful links: www.chambersmorganjames.co.uk; www.prestwood.info; www.fsa.gov.uk

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