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Financial Planning is one of the fastest-growing professions across the world and with a huge demand- supply gap in India the youngsters planning a career in Financial Planning have a bright future and can take advantage of many opportunities coming across in the Financial Services Industry.

Managing money is a tricky business, managing other people’s money is not just tricky; it’s a lot challenging and difficult. Considering most people need guidance on where to invest, how to save taxes, the best insurance scheme, which fund to invest in, which stock to hold, which one to sell, how to plan junior’s college and their own retirement. And for all those self styled experts; planners come into helping them make better use of their money and achieve financial goals.

Unlike the medical profession where expertise in specific area is the norm these days, CFP (Certified Financial Planner) is a Certification that proves the need for an expertise across various personal finance streams. And many of those who attained have been chartered accountants, MBAs, research analysts, fund managers; you name it. It would not be wrong to say that CFP Certification is the jewel of the future. It is a rigorous & specialised course certified by the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) India. Proficiency in this new discipline will enhance the professional worth of financial advisors, turbo-charge their career growth, and increase their earning capacity.

Financial Planning is one of the fastest-growing professions across the world and Financial Planners are most sought with a fast growing working population that earns well, and needs expert handling of their finances. And opportunities are plenty, also for those looking at not starting their own practice; banks, Financial Planning outfits, wealth managers, life insurers, accounting firms, stocks brokers are lapping on to people with such expertise. Financial Planners offer expert opinions on issues like retirement planning, estate planning, financial management of small businesses, trusts, tax, stock broking and investments and debt and risk management. Needless to say a career as a Financial Planner can prove both challenging and rewarding.

Where is the Demand?

Entering any profession is tough. And entering a fledgling profession still in the process of defining itself is that much tougher. Currently Financial Planners are part pioneers, part established professionals. Often the trouble with the pioneering side of the profession - pioneering takes a lot to get established and it takes time and many feel it does not pay. Though the obstacles to blazing new career trails can be frustrating and daunting to the point of causing a new Financial Planner to feel low; the opportunities ahead are immense (See table: career opportunities).

 

Career Opportunities

 
Job Profile Analysing and Planning finances of individuals to meet their life goals
Employers Brokerages, banks, insurers, fund houses, wealth managers etc.
Qualifications CFP Certification holders. Additional  qualifications like MBA, CA etc helps
Essential Attributes A thorough grounding in numbers, familiarity with investor psyche
Other career options Can start on their own, work as consultants for firms and so on...
 

Currently, a CFP Certification is a valuable, career-enhancing add-on. At present there are around 350 CFP Certificants in India but around 10,000 students and professionals are undergoing the CFP Certification across India with varied backgrounds. But industry estimates the need for CFP Professionals to run into over one lakh over the next decade. Many amongst the first lot of Certificants were fund distributors or insurance agents or servicing clients without the right expertise. For many financial intermediaries who were selling mutual funds and insurance for many years, and advising people, the CFP Certification has added credibility and infused confidence, as their awareness of products has become more holistic and they can tackle the bigger picture.

Many of those who have been initial people in the field have encountered a lot of tough moments in getting the concept of Financial Planning across.

Financial Planning is a corporate career track, even for those who run their own Financial Planning business and are not associated with a bank or investment firm. Because Financial Planners have so much contact with other professionals in different aspects of the financial profession, career changes can be common. Experienced Financial Planners can find satisfying careers in investment banking, financial consulting, and financial analysis. Because people skills are also an integral part of being a Financial Planner, financial consulting on both personal and corporate levels, are also options. Many Financial Planners, like many in other professions, are likely to find themselves attending business school, either to achieve a higher income or switch to one of the aforementioned professions.

Several CFP Certificants feel that the Certification has brought some dignity and respect in the trade and no more people treat them as agents or peddlers of insurance or a fixed deposit that one least needed. The large brigade of insurance agents, mutual fund agents and people who have a sense of financial instruments, selling these purely on their understanding, have reasons to cheer with the CFP Certification coming in as a boon to consolidate their existing network of clients and offer them more.

Working as a Financial Planner

Recognizing Financial Planning’s occupational benefits, there are many surveys that indicate a career in Financial Planning as the top career choice in the country. Most Financial Planners enjoy relatively low stress, have a high earning potential and enjoy a high degree of workplace autonomy. The personal satisfaction element cannot be underestimated. Very often, independent Financial Planners find that people are just overwhelmed and need direction, so it’s their job to listen, understand their situation and offer some options that will help them. It gives them a satisfaction of being able to help people do better, and it’s not just about their finances. It’s about blending the financial side with the other sides of clients’ lives so that they can achieve their goals.

Satisfaction gained from finding client solutions is the satisfaction derived from solid career development. Over the next 5-10 years, the profession should experience some significant growth, and practitioners should see increased income potential. And, the first to move from financial services industry to be on their own have taken the CFP route to chalk out a career path in this profession with the certification to begin with. A Financial Planner’s decisions to be his/her own boss reflects the attitude of many of the Financial Planning profession’s pioneers. But for those who want solid, big firm experience, the opportunities are plentiful and growing fast. Firms such as HSBC Bank, Kotak Mahindra, ICICI Prudential, DSP Merrill Lynch and mutual fund houses are looking at recruiting CFP Certificants or those pursuing it, with many staffers being encouraged to study for the certification while being employed. Many of these firms have even begun to offer attractive incentives, both financial and developmental, to employees who earn CFP Certification while on the job, with some waiving the fee to certification.

The Value Proposition

For a start, a certification immediately places the CFP’s in a much smaller peer set with a higher level of qualification and credibility. With around 8,000 aspirants pursuing the CFP Certification drill currently, many are looking to add the qualification in existing profession. The biggest advantage the certification offers is the flexibility to open your own shop or look up the possibility to join an institution (See table: Benefits of CFP Certification). And with fast emerging verticals within the personal finance domain; having focused specialities in certain specific areas helps and can be very productive for planners seeking to be part of large outfits.

Benefits of Being a CFP Certificant

  • Enhanced career and employment opportunities with Financial Services companies
  • Personal satisfaction in knowing you have earned the profession’s highest standard and met the global benchmark
  • Satisfied clients who appreciate the comprehensive approach to Financial Planning and extend long term relationship and referrals
  • Your expertise and credibility as a qualified professional is instantly communicated
  • More revenue streams by increasing your product and service offering to your clients
  • Enhanced Social Status by joining the league of professionals
  • Recognition in 20 countries across the world

Globally, Financial Planners either run their independent outfits or work as a firm, something Financial Planners in India are also looking at. Here to, most successful planners are those who have ventured on to be on their own. The entrepreneurial freedom and flexibility that a career in Financial Planning offers cannot be offered by anything else, reckon many CFP Certificants we spoke to.

It’s possible for Planners to earn a lot more. Independent practitioners handling their clients’ assets earn a mix of fee, commissions and performance benefits. Many Financial Planners have a clientele to whom they just offer advice. But for a lot of people they do the distribution as well or just the initial financial assessment, which is fee based. The mix depends on the type of client who walks in. Some CFP practitioners who distribute financial products and also earn commissions easily make Rs 1 lakh a month, and this will grow as the assets they handle increase.

Planner’s Path

Currently, there is a huge mismatch between the small supply of CFP Certificants and the large demand from advice seekers, and this is likely to continue for some time to come. It is a lot of hard work, and of course, one is under pressure to offer more and more, feel many of the current planners. But that’s a small price to pay for pushing the frontiers of the Financial Planning universe (See table Planner’s Path).

 

Planner’s Path

 
Levels Job profile Qualification/Experience Expected Pay (p.a)
Entry Trainees and executives with wealth managers, banks & product distributors Pursuing CFP Rs 2-3 lakh
Middle Sales Mangers, Relationship Mangers, Wealth Managers work experience financial expertise Pursuing CFP with Rs 4-7 lakh
Senior Functional heads like retirement specialists, tax specialists and business/regional heads CFP with work exp. and other professional qualifications Above Rs 10 lakh
 

Additionally, individuals with qualifications such as MBA, CA, CFA etc. blended with CFP Certification may add  20-25 % to their expected emoluments.

Beyond Plans

Opportunities for Financial Planners are expected to grow faster than average in the future. There are newer areas that planners are getting into with the changing demands and opportunities that are posed at them. From being columnists with publications, talk specialists at seminars and workshops to being featured on television discussing Financial Plans and to writing books; planners are doing everything possible. Some of the opportunities present to them are:

Specialists: There are few CFP Practitioners who are now focusing on being retirement plan specialists and specialists managing only HNI money and so on. You have the choice to do the same. This is a big opportunity because there are lots of areas where specialists can play a specific part including estate planning or trusts and most of these remain unexplored today in India.

Columnists: With so much need about Financial Planning doing the rounds; newspapers, magazine and television channels are fast adapting to Financial Planners as expert advisors and panelists who write, analyze and are part of discussions held. The choice for the Planner is to function as a freelancer or associate themselves with a single media house.

Seminars and Talks: Planners are seen to be getting more interactive being part of targeted seminars and talks addressing retirement needs for groups and educating investors across various strata. They can speak and present at various seminars and functions and this can stretch across various cities in the country.

Books: Planners are popular amongst publishers to come up with books on basics of planning, retirement and wealth creation amongst others. One can look at co-authoring or writing books that will have an interest among lay people.

Teaching and Training: There is also the choice for taking up teaching assignments for various entities including corporate. There is a huge demand for training in the area of Financial Planning and experts and people with knowledge are in short supply. A firm grasp of the subject and its basics can be a very good tool to get going in this area.

 

Desired Traits

 

No matter how one enters the field,there are common skill sets that lead to success:

 
  • Strong people skills
  • Ability to communicate
  • Analytical savvy
  • Problem solving
  • Synthesize information
  • Demonstrate creativity
  • Self-starting
 

Other Professional Careers

Financial services, especially on the retail side, have undergone a major transformation. Various factors have catalysed this change: One, privatisation of insurance and mutual fund sectors has increased product options for the investor. Two, falling interest rates and the end of ‘guaranteed-return’ products have prompted investors to look for alternative modes of investment. And, three with a number of scams taking place in the financial markets, investors’ confidence in ‘advisors’ has been shaken and the investors are asking for a ‘trusted financial doctor’.

In the Financial landscape, an individual has various professional courses such as Chartered Account (CA), Company Secretaries (CS), Cost & Works Accountants (CWA) and Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) to pursue. Each programme offers individuals some specialization, which fulfils a job requirement. The CA focuses on tax, audit and accountancy; a CS is an expert in corporate laws; the CWA will focus on management accountancy and CFA will be an expert in corporate finance and mergers & acquisitions. The common feature across all these programmes is that they are professional courses focused on the “corporate” point of view.

In this era of super specialization, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), focusing on comprehensive financial advisory services to individuals has emerged. (Kindly see Table below, enlisting the various options of qualifications/ certifications available to candidates looking to pursue a career in Finance.)

 
Course Designation Institute Main Areas Covered
CA Chartered Account The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) Accounting, taxation & auditing
CS Company Secretary The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) Company law
CWA Cost Accountant The Institute of Costs & Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) Costing
CFP Certified Financial Planner Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB), India Financial Planning - Insurance, Retirement, Investments & Taxation

CFA Chartered Financial Analyst Association for Investment Management & Research (AIMR) Portfolio Management & Investment Analysis
CPA Certified Public Accountant American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA) Accountancy & Taxation
 

Promising future

Financial Planners can be generalists or specialists. Some practice comprehensive Financial Planning while others emphasize money management, retirement planning and/or estate and tax planning. Some target specific markets-retirees, HNIs, non-salaried professionals, NRIs, under 40s, doctors and those in the software industry and young professionals. With CFP Certification being recognized worldwide one may also opt to practice in other parts of the world or cater exclusively to NRI Clientele. The quickest route to success as a Financial Planner is to train with and work for a financial-services company or wealth managers. After acquiring experience, look at options that can enable you to set your own practice or work with a planner to get the desired mentoring to start your own Financial Planning businesses. Success then depends on attracting more and more clients. Networking and self-promotion play a large part in attracting clients, but in the end, their satisfaction is the most important factor in a planner’s success.

The future poses numerous opportunities for Financial Planners to take advantage of thousands of available jobs in this expanding profession. There is also the possibility to fuel your entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy the benefits of owning your own business. Distinguish yourself by expanding your knowledge, competence, and professional status. Grow your own client base by offering a wider range of services and be in charge of your own financial future.

 
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