Planning your career in pensions and wealth management

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
September, 2016

We all know that the value of an investment can drop as well as rise - but what does it take to successfully manage pensions and other financial products for clients?

It is a period of massive change in the pensions industry, according to Gareth Tancred, chief executive of the Pensions Management Institute (PMI). 'Initiatives such as auto-enrolment give every worker access to a pension; the Freedom and Choice initiatives give more options to those in their middle age; and 2017 sees the introduction of the Lifetime ISA, a radically different way for younger people between 18-40 to save for the future,' he says.

Despite the comprehensive range of choices available, frequent overhauls of pension rules by the UK government have further complicated the already muddied landscape of retirement plans and savings. Making sense of the system and market conditions is imperative for the independent financial planners, consulting firms and global organisations that are tasked with safeguarding the financial futures of their employees, investors and clients.

Explore the careers that are available in this area and the finance qualifications necessary to achieve professional status…

Consider wealth management careers

Professionals whose job it is to manage pensions for their clients are often referred to as pension scheme managers or pensions consultants. There are a number of other related roles that deal with wealth management and financial planning at various levels, including private client investment managers, executives of life, pension and investment providers and senior managers of life, pension and investment providers.

However, this is just a selection of the areas you may wish to specialise in, with many other possibilities when it comes to graduate jobs in finance and accountancy.

Study for professional qualifications

As with most other accountancy, banking and finance roles, a strong emphasis is placed on professional attainment - although there is flexibility as to at what stage in your career you might wish to pursue higher qualifications. The specific job requirements will determine what's necessary at any given time, with work experience in local markets often highly valued.

For instance, you could decide to follow the Certified Financial Planner certification (Level 6) with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), which covers pensions and provisioning, and pensions advice - giving you the opportunity to grow and progress your career. You'll only be eligible to study towards the award once you've gained at least three years of unsupervised practical experience in a relevant position.

Other routes include the wealth management study pathway for wealth managers, discretionary portfolio managers, independent financial advisers, private bankers and private client managers, of which there are seven levels: two at the foundation level (Levels 2 and 3); two at the qualifying level (Levels 3 and 4); and two at the professional level (Levels 6 and 7), where you can work towards the Chartered Wealth Manager qualification. While previous work experience doesn't count towards chartered status, instead you'll require full UK accountancy and actuarial qualifications.

Explore Masters programmes

While professional qualifications and relevant work experience are usually the most important things you'll need to succeed in pensions or wealth management, postgraduate courses with strong links to industry may give graduates a distinct advantage in the workplace.

Dr Nick Motson, associate dean for the Masters programme at City, University of London's Cass Business School, explains how a finance Masters degree helps a student specialise and stand out in such a competitive world.

'Our MSc in Finance is highly ranked by the Financial Times, and we are recognised as one of the best business schools in Europe. We offer 20 Masters programmes including full-time and part-time study options. All programmes are delivered in an educational environment that is renowned for its commitment to innovation and research. Crucially, our London location permits high-level contacts with numerous City firms, with many Cass students moving on to positions in those firms every year.'

Nick adds that many students who study one of Cass's finance related Masters courses move into wealth management and especially the MSc in Investment Management which, like many of the other programmes on offer, has been designed in partnership with organisations at the forefront of the industry, including: the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute, the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA) and the CISI.

An advisory panel of senior practitioners are tasked with keeping Cass courses on top of the latest developments within financial markets while reflecting topical and technical developments in the marketplace, thus ensuring that the curriculum is 'current, relevant and rigorous'.

The primary objective, reiterates Nick, is to ensure that students not only learn the theoretical foundations that underpin modern investment and risk management techniques, but also that they are able to apply this knowledge in practice via case studies and research projects.

'In essence we're aiming to provide our graduates with a toolkit of skills that will make them successful in their chosen career.'

Join a financial services professional body

Whatever type of pensions or wealth management job you feel would suit your personality and skillset, you'll find support available from a dedicated industry organisation.

'For graduates seeking a career in pensions, membership of the Pensions Management Institute can be great value in kick-starting your career,' advises Gareth.

The benefits of joining a professional body such as PMI are outlined by Gareth below:

  • Enhance your network - creating professional relationships is vital. We run local and national conferences, update seminars and even social events. These allow you to connect with your peers, update your knowledge, learn and share new ideas, ask for advice, and hear about new developments.
  • Take charge of your career - we've a range of qualifications to support your career development, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) and lifelong-learning opportunities. Over a third of members receive a financial bonus for passing our qualifications, with a similar figure receiving salary increases.
  • Broaden your knowledge - the PMI has an enormous amount of resources and insight to help you, including: PMI TV, case studies, articles, white papers, regular news updates and technical guidance by experts across the industry.
  • Recognition - being a member of the PMI at an early stage looks good on your CV, and shows a level of commitment to your career. Many of our qualifications come with post-nominal letters. Almost two thirds of our members say that professional recognition is important to them.

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Gain an insight into the accountancy, banking and finance sector, explore graduate careers, learn about pensions and wealth management, and discover what professional qualifications you'll need to be successful.