Pensions consultants provide advice and information on retirement provision to organisations. They are involved in reviewing an organisation's current pension provision for staff members and recommending a range of options for consideration. They may then be involved in setting up and running occupational pension schemes on behalf of companies.

Supporting organisations to provide for their future financial security requires a combination of up-to-date knowledge of the financial services sector and an understanding of pensions legislation.

Most pensions consultants work for specialist pensions and benefits consultancies, although opportunities also exist with large financial services companies and life assurance companies.

Alternatively, it is possible to work as a personal pensions adviser or independent financial adviser, selling pensions and saving plans to individual clients.

Responsibilities

Pensions consultants offer pensions provision to other organisations and advise on the best form of pensions provision for the organisation as a whole to provide to their employees.

Specific activities vary but typically involve:

  • reviewing a client organisation's current pension provision for its staff members;
  • researching the financial market for suitable products and investment funds;
  • recommending options for the client organisation to choose from and implement;
  • explaining complex information to clients to make them aware of their options and to help them assess the relative merits of different schemes;
  • in some instances, setting up and running the pensions scheme on behalf of the organisation;
  • sourcing appropriate investment funds and designing a pension scheme and benefits packages to meet the needs of client organisations;
  • calculating and reviewing the structure, value and performance of funds;
  • overseeing the administration of pension schemes;
  • providing regular reports to pension managers and trustees;
  • keeping clients regularly updated about their pensions and investment products;
  • attending meetings with fund managers, trustees and employee representatives, as well as with other professionals, such as accountants, the solicitors of pensions funds and actuaries;
  • issuing regular statements to scheme members;
  • helping clients to develop strategies to promote the benefits of their schemes to members;
  • managing the relationship with clients to ensure they are happy with the scheme and investments;
  • keeping up to date with developments in, and changes to, pensions legislation;
  • working as part of a team in a sales-driven environment;
  • seeking and attracting 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. Independent financial advisers may also be involved in advising on other areas such as mortgages, life insurance and employee benefits.

Salary

  • Trainee consultants may begin in a pensions administrator role with starting salaries of around £15,000 rising to £28,000 per annum plus bonuses and other benefits. Salaries for senior pensions administrators start at around £24,000, rising to £45,000 per annum.
  • Pension consultants with appropriate qualifications and experience can earn £30,000 to £55,000 per annum plus bonuses and other benefits.
  • Salaries for senior pensions consultants with significant experience and relevant qualifications can rise to in excess of £80,000 per annum plus bonuses and other benefits.

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

Benefits may include private health cover, shares, pension, life cover, income protection and sales incentive-related bonuses, as well as study support.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours tend to be standard office hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, personal pensions advisers may be required to work occasional early mornings, evenings or weekends to accommodate clients.

What to expect

  • Work is split between time spent in the office, at a client's home or workplace. As a personal pensions adviser you may be able to work from home.
  • Occasional travel outside the local area may be required for client visits or to attend training events, seminars and conferences.
  • Pensions consultants are generally employees rather than self-employed, although those working in a broader role as an independent financial adviser (IFA) may work on a self-employed basis.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities throughout the UK.
  • The client-facing nature of this job means that a smart, professional appearance is essential.
  • 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.
  • Most jobs are UK-based because of the regulatory nature of providing pensions advice.

Qualifications

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

  • business;
  • economics;
  • finance;
  • law;
  • mathematics.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible for those with experience in the pensions industry and, in particular, for those with professional qualifications. People skills and a strong financial or sales background are often viewed by employers as more important than formal entry qualifications.

Although postgraduate qualifications are not required, specialist professional qualifications provided by the Pensions Management Institute (PMI) or the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) may increase your career development opportunities. They provide 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 via the Pensions Certificate Programme.

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.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • 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

There are opportunities to take internships during the summer vacation with major pensions and insurance firms and professional services organisations. Successful completion of an internship may lead to an offer of a place on a graduate scheme. Competition for places is keen and you are usually expected to achieve at least a 2:1 or equivalent qualification.

Alternatively, it is possible to start as a pensions administrator and then work your way up to a pensions consultant by developing the face-to-face aspect of the role and gaining relevant professional qualifications and experience.

The pensions industry also recruits from other sectors of the financial services industry. For example, those with experience in financial planning or advice can specialise in pensions.

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 independent financial adviser (IFA) and then specialise in pensions.

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

As giving personal pensions advice is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the majority of jobs are based in the UK.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist 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

Giving personal pensions advice is regulated by the FCA and specific professional qualifications are required. Employers will normally support your training, pay for exams and provide study time to complete qualifications. Your employer will also train you in their pensions products and computer systems.

For those advising companies on their pensions arrangements and provision (occupational pensions schemes), the PMI offers the following qualifications:

  • Diploma in Employee Benefits and Retirement Savings (DEBRS);
  • Diploma in Retirement Provision (DRP);
  • Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision (ADRP).

The Pensions Regulator is the UK regulator of work-based pension schemes, providing guidance to pensions specialists, trustees, employers and business advisers.

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 FCA qualification requirements are offered by organisations such as the:

For a list of qualifying courses that meet FCA regulated activities requirements, see the FCA Appropriate Qualifications Tables or contact course providers direct.

Reading trade magazines, such as Pensions World, is useful for keeping up to date with changes to the profession and the pensions industry.

Career prospects

The pensions industry has undergone major changes and there is now a greater range of options and products available.

Consequently, continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential element of career progression within the industry. Your career is likely to progress more quickly with relevant professional qualifications and it is therefore important to identify employers who will support your training.

Pensions consultants advising on occupational pension schemes will undertake the PMI Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision. Once you have passed the Advanced Diploma and have at least three years' relevant work experience in the pensions industry, you are eligible to become an associate member of the PMI and use the initials APMI after your name.

Undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) is essential for membership of professional bodies and career progression. The PMI provides an online CPD recording system, enabling members to keep a track of their learning and development activities. Membership of organisations such as the PMI and the CII is useful for keeping up to date with industry news and for networking and developing industry links through regional and national events.

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

With recent changes to the pensions industry there may be opportunities for promotion with employers across the sector. It is possible to move into a related role such as: