Practical tips for fast tracking your financial planning career

For our latest round of PFS conferences I was tasked with delivering a session for the next gen of financial planners, looking at the unique challenges faced when starting out, and how to overcome them.

Challenges facing financial planners fall into four broad categories:

  1. Skills less experience
  2. Confidence
  3. New business generation
  4. Career opportunities.

1. Skills less experience

Most start with a wealth of fresh technical knowledge but lack some human interaction skills especially orchestrating conversations with clients. You can fast track developing these skills in several ways.

Learn from others:

Whether you work in a small or large firm, you can ask others if you can observe a meeting or watch a recording of one that has taken place. If you do not have colleagues, you can brave finding someone to role play with. You can also access the large library of content focussed on human skills hosted on this website. For example, Finesse your First Meetings, parts 1, 2 and 3 with Melissa Kidd or The Amazing Power of Questions with John Dashfield.

Reflect on the meetings you have:

What went well? What didn’t go well? How do you think the client felt at the end of the meeting? How did you feel? Did anything that came up surprise you? How did you handle the clients’ questions? What would you do differently? What would you do the same? This takes great honesty and discipline, but it really does help!

Meeting techniques:

Position your meetings, set them in context for clients. This is a simple and effective technique to put you in the driving seat.

Ask your clients what they wish to achieve from the meeting. This helps to gain their confidence. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer. It is ok to say that you will research and find out.

In the first meeting with a new client, it is fine to explain that you are unlikely to provide advice today, and your discussion will focus on understanding their circumstances and planning needs to personalise everything to suit their unique circumstances.

Managing the client’s expectations in this way removes the pressure to answer every question. Being an expert is not about remembering every technical detail, it is about knowing how to explore your clients’ needs, objectives, and goals and to effectively prepare a plan that meets those needs.

When you need to ask questions of a sensitive nature, provide context and seek permission before you ask the questions. When clients understand why you are asking for information, they are more likely to be open with you.

Use external resources:

There are loads of great resources online to help you develop your skills. Look outside of your organisation to find what you need. Even if you have plenty of in-house training options, different perspectives are a great way to expand your knowledge.

2. Confidence

A lack of confidence can be compounded by comments from clients such as “how long have you been doing this job?” and “do you work full time?” These are surprisingly common.

However, you can  turn these perceived negatives into positives such as:

Longevity:

The younger you are the longer your career ahead, which means you can be with your client long-term to advise them through different life stages.

Technical knowledge – elevator introduction:

You have just finished your exams. Your technical knowledge is current and fresh. Explain this to your clients. Better still, if you are working alongside a more experienced planner, ask them to introduce you in a way that highlights your technical expertise.

Team approach:

Where you adopt a team approach, lean on this. Explain that you will be their lead adviser, but you work with a paraplanner and colleagues in specialist areas to ensure the advice they receive is considered and robust, with knowledge shared up and down the team.

Modern financial planning:

There is still a perception of slick sales and product-led advice in our profession. If this isn’t your proposition, tell your client. Talk about modern financial planning and your motivation for becoming a planner. Your values will speak volumes and help build trust.

Get prepared:

Have a pre-meeting call to understand your client’s key questions and do some initial research. Set an agenda and remember to position the conversation so the client knows you may not have all the answers today.

3. New business generation

As financial planners our core focus is to help clients achieve their financial and life goals. Business development may not be on your radar yet, and it may not be your cup of tea, or within your natural skillset.

There are many approaches to business development and the best thing for you to do is work in a way that feels authentic for you. If meeting a potential introducer with a pitch is not your vibe – don’t do it! It will be obvious you are not relaxed, and it will not achieve the results you need.

Here are some pointers to get you started and help you find a way that works for you:

Social media and personal brand:

Think about how you want your audience to receive you. What are your values and USPs? Get clear on this first, then use social media to share and interact with content that aligns to your personal brand. This is an effective way to get your name and face in front of a wide audience in a time-efficient way.

Networking events:

Networking events are a great starting point for building your professional circle of business introducers. Few people enjoy walking into a room of strangers, and it helps to remember that you are not the only person feeling this way! A benefit mindset can help in these situations “how can I help you?”. When your aim of meeting people is to help them, be that through sharing knowledge or connecting people, networking can be a pleasure and people reciprocate to help you.

Committees:

Committees are an excellent way to meeting people consistently and with purpose. Consider joining a local business committee or your PFS regional committee. Look for opportunities to collaborate with professionals and peers to build relationships of trust.

Trusted relationships are not formed overnight. You need to be persistent and consistent. Be authentically you, and you will find you connect with people with shared values and goals who become an essential circle of trust that brings many more benefits than just business generation.

4. Career opportunities

You may be starting out with a clear career path in your mind, or you may want to gain experience in the role before making firms plans. In either case, it is important to set yourself up for success.

Talk with your employer:

What are the strategic plans for the business and how do you fit into these? Vocalise your goals and ambitions. If these are aligned with the business, ask for clarity on what you need to deliver in order to progress.

Training for your role:

Explore what training is offered within your firm and if you will be supported with internal or external courses or shadowing opportunities.

Skills stacking:

What skills do you need to be successful in your current and future role? Diversify your skillset to set yourself apart from your peers.

Where else can you learn new skills?

Don’t limit your learning to the opportunities that are presented to you. Will leadership skills be important for your career? If so, consider joining a committee and taking on the role of chair. Want to practice public speaking? Find a reason to present. There are endless opportunities to learn skills if you look for them.

Find a mentor:

Whether via a formal programme, or informal mentoring from colleagues and peers, having trusted mentors to discuss challenges and ideas will facilitate your learning and success.

Values and cultural fit:

Cultural fit and shared values are essential when committing to a career within a firm. Don’t be afraid to explore your options elsewhere if you are not aligned with your firm. Always do what is right for you – you only get one career and one life.

Read as much as you can:

Be determined to embark on life-long learning. Reading helps you think and ignites your own ideas.

Putting this into action

The best day to start is today. Set yourself some actions. Consider and write down your answers to the following:

  1. What is my career goal?
  2. What is my greatest obstacle to overcome?
  3. What practical steps can I take to address this?
  4. When will I take the first step?
  5. When will I schedule a review to see if this is working?
  6. What will success look like?

Plan, implement, reflect, adjust, and repeat. When you get the actions right, success will follow.

We are all in charge of our own destiny.

Resources

PFS futureme business and professional skills training / assessments

PFS Connect e-mentoring programme

PFS Power human and business skills CPD

PFS Learning Content Hub technical and regulatory CPD

PFS national and regional events

Eventbrite business networking and skills events in your region

LinkedIn online and in-person business development

Focussed networks women’s networking, etc. – search online