Why financial planning?
After finishing university I worked part time for a small Independent Financial Advisory (IFA) firm where I was immediately impressed by the difference that high-quality financial planning can make to people’s lives. I had previously been under the impression (as I think most still are) that financial planning/financial advice is just about selling people financial products. However, after gaining experience I began to understand the overall focus is on helping individuals achieve their life goals – and this is what got me hooked.
Like most graduate roles, the application process at Mazars involved several stages – firstly an online application followed by online tests, a first interview and then finally an assessment centre.
The assessment centre then consisted of a presentation, an in-tray exercise and finally a Partner interview. It was not an intimidating day and the focus was on ensuring that we would fit in with the firm and enjoy our job role. I would advise that you research the firm, the job role and communicate clearly why you want the job, why you will enjoy it, and what skills you have that will match the job profile.
Mazars graduate scheme
The graduate scheme is set in two fairly distinct stages. Whilst I am currently in the first stage I am often:
- Conducting research on client’s existing policies to assess whether they are suitable for the client’s needs and objectives.
- Rebalancing client’s investment portfolios to ensure that their investments remain in line with their attitude towards risk whilst minimising Capital Gains Tax liabilities.
- Writing a wide range of client recommendation reports for, and under the guidance of, qualified financial planners.
- Receiving technical training by qualified and experienced Paraplanners and Financial Planners at Mazars. This is essential in cementing knowledge learned from exams, whilst also enabling me to take on increasingly complex work.
The second part of the graduate scheme (which usually starts after 18 months) is spent as an Assistant Financial Planner working directly with qualified Financial Planners, attending client meetings and working together to provide advice. The fourth year of the graduate scheme involves continuing as an Assistant Financial Planner and completing role play tests. Once (and if!) those are passed, the aim is to become signed off as a qualified Financial Planner to then take on and build up a portfolio of clients.
- Rewarding – as touched upon previously, providing strong holistic financial advice is rewarding since it provides clients with visibility over their finances and assists them in achieving their life goals.
- Each client is different – clients all have a different situation, a varying level of wealth, and a wide variety of needs. This means that no client meeting and no one piece of advice is ever the same, therefore guaranteeing a varied level of work.
- Building long-lasting relationships – whilst not yet at that point, once a qualified Financial Planner, you will build up clients’ trust and work with them over many years providing ongoing advice.
- Exams – as with many professional careers, studying alongside work is essential. Whilst they can be challenging, they are vital to progressing your career and once completed will provide you with industry-recognised qualifications.
- Constantly changing investments, tax and pension regulation – aside from exams you are forced to continually learn new rules and remain updated on industry changes. The positive is that it ensures a varied job role as it continually provides a wide range of planning opportunities.
- Tax year end – 5th April brings with it many important deadlines related to one’s financial position, such as making pension contributions, ISA subscriptions and using various tax allowances. No matter how early you plan each year, tax year end is very busy and is likely to involve some late nights.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills – a large part of being a financial planner is holding meetings with clients. As you are often dealing with a client’s total accumulated wealth, you need to be able to hold very personal discussions and obtain the client’s trust. From a technical standpoint, you need to be able to explain complex concepts in a simple and interesting way that keeps the client engaged.
- Strong analytical and research skills – clients can have very complex needs and you need to be able to take into consideration all the potential scenarios and the impacts of each before formulating advice on the best course of action for the client.
- Entrepreneurial – as a financial planner you need to have the drive to go out and build up your own portfolio of clients. Whilst (depending on the firm) you are likely to have experienced planners on hand to assist you in the early days, it’s largely down to you to get your name out there, promote yourself and engage with prospects.
Try and obtain some work experience – whether in a small IFA firm or something bigger. This will help you decide whether you do want to pursue a career in financial planning and if you decide that you do, it will be invaluable for when you apply to firms for a full-time job/graduate scheme. There are lots of small IFAs around so I would recommend sending out your CV with a cover letter and expressing interest in an internship/work experience.