You'll need a keen interest in financial products, services and markets, as well as excellent communication and interpersonal skills, to work as a pensions consultant

As a pensions consultant, you'll provide advice and information on retirement provision to other organisations and advise on the best form of pensions provision for the organisation as a whole to provide to its employees.

You'll review an organisation's current pension provision for staff members and recommend a range of options for their consideration. You may then be involved in setting up and running occupational pension schemes on behalf of companies.

Most pensions consultants work for specialist pensions and benefits consultancies, although opportunities also exist with large financial services companies and life assurance companies. Alternatively, you could work as a personal pensions adviser or independent financial adviser, selling pensions and saving plans to individual clients.

Responsibilities

As a pensions consultant, you'll need to:

  • review a client organisation's current pension provision for its staff members
  • research the financial market for suitable products and investment funds
  • recommend options for the client organisation to choose from
  • explain complex information to clients to make them aware of their options and to help them assess the relative merits of different schemes
  • set up and run the pensions scheme on behalf of the organisation (in some instances)
  • source appropriate investment funds and design a pension scheme and benefits packages to meet the needs of client organisations
  • calculate and review the structure, value and performance of funds
  • oversee the administration of pension schemes
  • provide regular reports to pension managers and trustees
  • keep clients regularly updated about their pensions and investment products
  • attend meetings with fund managers, trustees and employee representatives, as well as with other professionals, such as accountants, the solicitors of pensions funds and actuaries
  • issue regular statements to scheme members
  • help clients to develop strategies to promote the benefits of their schemes to members
  • manage the relationship with clients to ensure they're happy with the scheme and investments
  • keep up to date with developments in, and changes to, pensions legislation
  • work as part of a team in a sales-driven environment
  • seek and attract new business.

Alternatively, you may work as a personal pensions adviser advising on a range of products suitable to the needs of your individual clients and ensuring that they receive regular updates about their pension and investments. As an independent financial adviser, you may also offer advice in other areas such as mortgages, life insurance and employee benefits.

Salary

  • Trainee consultants typically begin in a pensions administrator role with starting salaries of around £18,000, rising to £28,000 with experience. Salaries for senior pensions administrators start at around £24,000 and can increase up to £38,000.
  • Pension consultants with appropriate qualifications and experience can earn around £25,000 up to £50,000.
  • Salaries for senior pensions consultants with significant experience and relevant qualifications can rise to around £75,000. At director level, your salary can be in excess of £90,000.

Salaries vary according to a range of factors, including type of employer, experience and qualifications, level of responsibility and location. Salaries for those working in London are generally higher.

You may also receive work-related bonuses and a range of other benefits, including access to a company pension scheme, child care vouchers, share save scheme and life assurance.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, personal pensions advisers may work occasional early mornings, evenings or weekends to accommodate their clients.

What to expect

  • Work is split between time spent in the office and at a client's home or workplace. Personal pensions advisers may be able to work from home.
  • Pensions consultants are generally employees rather than self-employed. However, if you work in a broader role as an independent financial adviser (IFA), you may work on a self-employed basis.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities throughout the UK. Most jobs are UK-based because of the regulatory nature of providing pensions advice.
  • The work is often sales-driven and can be competitive, involving a great deal of paperwork and administration. However, helping people make well-informed, strategic decisions about financial provision for their future can also be rewarding.
  • You may need to travel outside the local area to visit clients or to attend training events, seminars and conferences.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances of success:

  • business management
  • economics
  • finance
  • law
  • mathematics.

Some large pensions and insurance consultancy firms offer graduate trainee programmes. Graduate programmes within the financial services sector are usually more general, with the option to specialise in pensions. Competition is strong for places on graduate training programmes and experience of working in a customer-facing, financial or sales role is valuable.

Entry without a degree is possible if you have experience in the pensions industry and professional qualifications. People skills and a strong financial or sales background are often viewed by employers as more important than formal entry qualifications.

Although you don't need a postgraduate degree, specialist professional qualifications provided by the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) or the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) can increase your career development opportunities. These organisations offer a variety of qualifications ranging from beginners courses, for those new to the industry, to qualifications at managerial level.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association also provides a range of training opportunities, including introductory training to those who are new to pensions.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent communication, customer service and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to analyse and research information
  • the ability to explain complex information clearly and simply
  • strong numerical and IT skills
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • organisational skills and the ability to prioritise workloads
  • the drive and motivation to meet targets
  • time management skills
  • sales, negotiation and influencing skills
  • teamworking skills
  • customer service skills
  • a creative approach to problem solving
  • a high level of professionalism and personal integrity
  • an interest in financial products, services and markets.

Work experience

Look out for summer internships with major pensions and insurance firms and professional services organisations. Competition for places is keen and to secure one you're usually expected to have achieved at least a 2:1 in your degree or equivalent.

Alternatively, you could start as a pensions administrator and work your way up to a pensions consultant by developing the face-to-face aspect of the role and taking relevant professional qualifications.

The pensions industry also recruits from other sectors of the financial services industry, for example financial planning or advice.

Employers

Most pensions consultants offering advice on occupational pension schemes work for specialist pensions and benefits consultancies. These consultancies provide pensions advice generally to employers regarding pensions for their staff.

Other employers include:

  • firms offering independent financial advice to companies and individual clients regarding pensions
  • large life assurance companies running schemes on behalf of other companies - where you would usually start work as an IFA, then specialise in pensions.

It's also possible to work on a self-employed basis as an IFA, providing advice on other areas of financial planning, as well as pensions.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

Professional development

If you're advising companies on their pensions arrangements and provision (occupational pensions schemes), you'll usually work towards the PMI Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision (ADRP). Once you've passed the Advanced Diploma and have at least three years' relevant work experience in the pensions industry, you're eligible to become an associate member of the PMI and use the initials APMI after your name.

Personal pensions advisers, advising mainly individual customers about retail pension products, are more likely to take a general financial advice qualification. Relevant qualifications that meet Financial Conduct Authority requirements are offered by organisations such as:

Your employer will normally support your training, pay for exams and provide study time to complete qualifications. They will also train you in their pensions products and computer systems.

Pensions training is also provided by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, including courses for leadership and professional development.

It's essential to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout your career to keep up to date with industry developments and to enhance your career prospects. The PMI provides an online CPD recording system, enabling you to keep track of your learning and development activities.

Career prospects

The pensions industry has undergone major changes and there is now a greater range of options and products available. With experience, you could choose to specialise in a particular type of pension or become a self-employed pensions consultant.

With the right mix of experience and professional qualifications, there are opportunities to move into more senior roles such as pensions manager, with responsibility for managing a team of pensions consultants.

At the most senior levels, you'll have strategic responsibility for the delivery of services for the entire client-facing team and will be involved in building and developing long-term client relationships and business growth. You will also typically manage the department's revenue. For more senior roles, you will often have achieved APMI with the PMI.

There are also opportunities to move into a related role in other areas of the financial services industry, such as: