Financial advisers provide clients with specialist advice on how to manage their money. The role involves researching the marketplace and recommending the most appropriate products and services available, ensuring clients are aware of and understand products that best meet their needs and then securing a sale.

Advisers may specialise in particular products, depending on their clients, such as selling employee pension schemes to companies or offering mortgage, pension or investment advice to private clients. Others are generalists, offering advice to clients in all of these areas, as well as saving plans and insurance.

In order to give financial advice, advisers must have professional qualifications and follow strict financial industry rules.

Financial advisers may be known as financial planners or wealth managers.

Responsibilities

There are two different types of financial adviser and advice:

  • independent;
  • restricted.

Independent advisers, also called independent financial advisers (IFAs), research and consider all retail investment products or providers available to meet the client's needs. They must provide clients with unbiased and unrestricted advice.

Restricted advisers only offer limited advice, focusing on a particular range of products or on products from one, or a limited number, of providers.

All advisers must inform their clients, before providing advice, whether they provide independent or restricted advice.

Tasks vary depending on the role but typically involve:

  • contacting clients and setting up meetings, either within an office environment or in clients' homes or business premises;
  • conducting in-depth reviews of clients' financial circumstances, current provision and future aims;
  • analysing information and preparing plans best suited to individual clients' requirements;
  • completing risk analyses;
  • researching the marketplace and providing clients with information on new and existing products and services;
  • designing financial strategies;
  • assisting clients to make informed decisions;
  • researching information from various sources, including providers of financial products;
  • reviewing and responding to clients changing needs and financial circumstances;
  • promoting and selling financial products to meet given or negotiated sales targets;
  • negotiating with product suppliers for the best possible rates;
  • liaising with head office and financial services providers;
  • communicating with other professionals, such as estate agents, solicitors and valuers;
  • keeping up to date with financial products and legislation;
  • producing financial reports;
  • contacting clients with news of new financial products or changes to legislation that may affect their savings and investments;
  • meeting the regulatory aspects of the role, e.g. requirements for disclosure, costs of the services provided and also the advised products.

Salary

  • Typical annual salaries at trainee adviser level range from £22,000 to £30,000.
  • Qualified financial advisers can earn between £30,000 and £45,000.
  • Senior financial advisers working with an average-wealth client base can earn in the region of £60,000.
  • Wealth managers or private client advisers who are based in the wealth division of major retail and private banks can earn in excess of £100,000.

Financial advisers may also earn bonuses and commission and have additional benefits on top of their salary.

Salaries vary considerably depending on the employer and location, as well as on the level of qualifications and experience.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Some jobs, for example as a tied adviser in a high street bank, offer regular office hours. However, flexibility is required if working for a banking contact centre or as an independent financial adviser (IFA), as clients may require evening and weekend meetings.

What to expect

  • Working can be office based although IFAs may work from home or meet clients in their own homes.
  • Self-employment is common.
  • There are openings for tied, multi-tied and independent advisers throughout the UK. However, private banking positions tend to be based in the City of London and other key financial areas such as Edinburgh, Belfast and Manchester.
  • Travel within a working day is common for IFAs, but overnight stays away from home are unusual.
  • Due to the regulatory nature of financial advice, overseas work is uncommon and most jobs are UK-based serving UK customers. However, there are some opportunities for experienced advisers to work abroad for offshore financial advisory groups and international banks.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to graduates and diplomates of any discipline, the following subjects may improve your chances:

  • accountancy;
  • business management;
  • finance or financial studies.

Entry without a degree is possible and employers often regard personal qualities as important as academic qualifications.

Relevant experience in a customer service, sales or financial services setting is also viewed positively. New entrants often start in a bank and study part time, learning alongside experienced advisers.

It is possible to enter the financial advice sector as a paraplanner, providing research and administrative support to a financial adviser.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed.

Some retail banks offer graduate training schemes, whereas private banks often recruit graduates directly into the business.

It is possible to move into financial advice from other areas of the banking and insurance sector.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication, interpersonal and listening skills;
  • the capability to explain complex information simply and clearly;
  • the ability to network and establish relationships with clients;
  • research and analytical skills;
  • negotiation and influencing skills as well as determination and tenacity;
  • the ability to work in a team;
  • time management skills;
  • customer service skills;
  • self-motivation and organisation;
  • a good level of numeracy and IT skills;
  • a target-driven mindset;
  • a flexible approach to work;
  • decision-making skills;
  • discretion and an understanding of the need for client confidentiality;
  • an ethical and professional approach to work.

A full driving licence is useful, particularly for independent financial advisers (IFAs) who may have to travel to visit clients in their own homes.

Work experience

Evidence of commercial awareness acquired through part-time or vacation work or a longer work placement is useful. Experience in sales, advisory or customer service work is also valuable. Talk to a financial adviser for a greater insight into this area of work.

Employers

Financial advisers usually work for:

  • banks and building societies;
  • financial planning firms;
  • independent financial advice companies;
  • insurance companies;
  • investment firms.

Others are employed by estate agencies, specialist pension consultancies, law firms and by a number of retailers who have developed financial services as a part of their business. Some work as self-employed advisers.

Independent financial advisers (IFAs) may work for an organisation or may be self-employed, providing advice on products across the market.

Although most jobs are based in the UK serving UK customers, opportunities are sometimes available with offshore financial advisory groups and international banks.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies commonly handle vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

In order to become a qualified financial adviser you must take specific professional qualifications. Giving investment financial advice is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Employers often provide internal training and support to employees in gaining the minimum level four qualifications needed to deliver financial advice. These include:

Financial advisers who want to provide advice on mortgages or equity, stocks and shares, or long-term care protection will need to take additional examinations.

For more information on the appropriate qualifications, see the FCA.

All financial advisers working in retail investment must have a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS), which confirms that they have successfully completed a level four qualification approved by the FCA. They must also complete an annual programme of continuing professional development (CPD) of 35 hours and adhere to the FCA code of practice. This must be renewed every 12 months.

Many trainee advisers begin as tied advisers, gaining basic training in a range of financial products. Employers usually provide this in-house through a combination of formal tuition and on-the-job training. Trainees will gradually begin to work with clients under supervision and, gaining experience and qualifications, will acquire their own book of clients.

In the early stages, you will usually shadow an experienced financial adviser, doing some of the research and administration connected with their work and then you will gradually begin to deal directly with clients yourself, under supervision. As you become more experienced, you will acquire your own list of clients.

Most employers provide training and pay for examinations, but trainees are usually expected to study outside working hours and many courses offer distance learning opportunities. After you are qualified, regular supervision ensures that you maintain levels of competence and compliance with regulations.

The qualifications that you take may depend on the requirements of the organisation you work for and their specialist area.

Career prospects

After a period as a successful financial adviser, you could choose to:

  • work on behalf of clients with larger sums to invest;
  • specialise in one type of financial advice, such as pensions and retirement planning or savings investments plans - you might become the acknowledged expert in your office and colleagues would refer to you when they needed specialist advice for a client;
  • move upwards within your company and become responsible for the work of several other advisers, for the recruitment and training of new staff or for marketing and promoting the company - this might involve developing links with accountants, estate agents and solicitors in order to encourage them to refer clients to you.

Some advisers move into compliance work, which involves ensuring that all advisers follow company rules and regulations issued by regulatory bodies.

There may also be opportunities to become a director or partner in your firm.

Self-employment is another option. It is quite common for financial sales consultants with successful employment experience to launch their own businesses as independent financial advisers (IFAs).

You should continue to develop your skills and knowledge throughout your career. Studying for more advanced or specialised professional qualifications can enhance your career development opportunities. Qualifications include:

It is also possible to study full or part time for an MBA.