What qualifications do you need to be a financial planner?

24 May 2021

A financial planner talking with a client.

Financial planners are professionals that are paid to help individuals and businesses alike create investment strategies with the ultimate aim of helping to meet long-term financial goals.

Specialising in everything from tax planning and risk management to asset allocation and retirement planning, financial planners typically operate by first consulting with their clients directly in order to get a firm understanding of their specific needs and wants. From this point, a suitable level of financial investments for their clients will be sourced, based on capital size, risk tolerance and goals. Finally, a programme will be set up to help the client understand their new financial plan.

But, how do you become a financial planner and what qualifications, if any, do you need? Additionally, are there any financial courses that can provide the perfect foundation? In this blog, we will answer these questions and more as we take a closer look at how to become a financial planner.

What do I need to be a financial planner?

While you can work within the financial industry as a junior employee without a special qualification, in order to become a professional financial planner in the UK, you need to be certified. Lower level qualifications will allow you to practice in other roles within the financial advisory industry, including paraplanning jobs, for example. However, to become a fully certified financial planner, you will need to attain a Level 7 Diploma which is awarded by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).

Be under no illusions – obtaining Certified Financial Planner status is not easy and requires time, commitment and a lot of hard work. It’s also important to note that the globally recognised Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential is not financial planner training itself. It refers to the qualification needed to prove you have met key requirements in four major areas. These are education, experience, ethics, and examination.

Do you need a licence to be a financial planner?

While you don’t require a ‘licence’ to practice as a financial planner in the UK, as discussed above, you do need to achieve CFP status by obtaining a Level 7 CISI Diploma in Financial Planning. Although this in itself could be considered a kind of financial planning licensure, a qualification is not the same as a license. However, the accreditation process involved in becoming a financial planner does ensure only fully-trained and qualified professionals are able to practice as a financial planner. This protects clients and their money, making sure only those with the correct training and experience can operate as financial planners.

Do you need a degree to be a financial planner?

Although it is not a formalised legal requirement, in order to qualify for the necessary further training needed to become an certified financial planner, holding a university degree in a relevant subject, such as business and finance, mathematics, economics or business accounting, will certainly strengthen your case to qualify, as well as make your studies easier.

Remember, the best career paths for financial planners is a structured one that slowly builds up skills and hones specialist knowledge, training and first-hand experience as you climb the qualifications ladder. A typical path for an aspiring financial planner may look like this:

  • Achieve three A to C A-Level grades in relevant subjects (maths, economics, business studies, etc).
  • Graduate with a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a relevant subject.
  • Complete an RDR-compliant course – this is a qualification recognised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). For example, the Investment Advice Diploma or the Diploma for Financial Advisors.
  • Meet relevant work experience standards – typically one-year supervised experience is expected – maybe as part of a financial apprenticeship course – or a minimum of three years of unsupervised practice experience in the financial planning industry.
  • Achieve CFP certification by completing the CISI’s level 7 Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning.
  • Finally, gain CISI membership at MCSI Level or above, which shows your commitment to ethics and the financial planning Code of Conduct.

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