A Financial Planning Expert Reveals the Traits You Need to Succeed
An analytical mind and sharp mathematical abilities are a requisite for a successful career in financial planning, but these skills are just the tip of the iceberg.
Roland Blazevic, Superannuation Manager and Financial Planner at Suttie Financial Group, has been in the finance industry over 50 years.
It’s no easy feat to make it to such a milestone, especially in an industry where stress is as natural as fixing your hair in the morning. So what does it really take to thrive in a financial planning career?
There’s boundless information online about becoming a financial planner, but it can be difficult to decipher how it applies to you. After all, you’re not a combination of skills, you’re a human with a personality, and that’s often the factor that decides whether you enjoy your job — or hate it.
That’s why we’ve asked an industry expert to reveal not only the skills of successful financial planners, but their traits as well.
By the end of the article, you should be able to answer your pressing questions on:
These are Roland’s industry insights.
Table of Contents
You Need a Passion For Helping People
Roland explains it’s not just a love of numbers that got him this far, it’s a desire to help others.
“The passion to understand and help people, from all sorts of backgrounds and financial situations is an important trait to have,” he says.
In fact, it’s arguably the most important trait to have as a financial planner. Not only will a genuine interest in your client’s needs create a stand-out industry reputation, the drive to help them turn their lives around will push you through the long hours and stressful days.
Roland says the best part of the job is, “Helping clients achieve or get close to their financial goals. Their satisfaction and appreciation is personally rewarding.”
“Most clients don’t really understand what is involved in providing financial planning advice, including considering all the financial planning regulations which all planners need to deal with, as well as the recent education requirements that need to be undertaken by existing and new financial advisers,” he says.
But the hard work and stress of keeping up with the industry is made worth it by your clients’ successes.
The great thing is, in this career path, helping others can look like a lot of different things. Ultimately, it’s up to you to define where your passion lies, and what ‘helping others’ means for you.
Financial planners often have a niche, such as:
For Roland, his passion for helping people with their future financial goals, particularly superannuation and retirement planning, led him to specialise in that area.
Your passion could be in an entirely different niche. You might prefer the satisfaction of helping individuals and families, or find it more rewarding helping businesses and organisations. However, don’t worry if you’re someone who doesn’t like client-facing work, there are roles in financial planning that don’t involve dealing with clients.
Once you’ve completed a relevant financial planning course and earned your stripes in the field, you can specialise in almost any niche you can think of. But how do you prove your worth when you’re starting out?
You Should Hone These Financial Planning Skills
- An outgoing personality
- Effective written and verbal communication skills
- Excellent ability to listen
- Ability to empathise with and understand client’s unique needs
- Ability to work under pressure
- Networking and relationship building skills
- Persistence and passion for the job
- Financial reporting
- Commercial acumen – an understanding of the trends and technologies shaping the markets
- Planning expertise
- Working knowledge of financial products and markets
- Mathematical and problem solving skills
- Analytical abilities
- Attention to detail
As you can see, becoming a financial planner requires you to have a mix of skills that will help you in both client-facing situations and managing portfolios behind the scenes. Soft skills like communication and empathy go hand in hand with technical skills like analytics and mathematics, in order to provide the best client care.
Your success as a financial planner will be reflected in the successes of your clients. So, being invested in their unique situations, by listening, understanding and empathising with them, will help you create a great industry reputation.
Roland attests to this. “The ability to understand what the client wishes to achieve is vital. It is generally difficult for people without any, or only minimal, financial background to communicate what they wish for, and to relay important information required to provide financial planning advice,” he says.
“You need the ability to truly listen and understand, rather than assuming what the client is attempting to say.”
“In addition, you need the ability to learn from all past experiences and the drive to get better at what you do.”
You Must be Prepared for the Challenges of Financial Planning
It’s an industry that comes with a high level of stress, regardless of whether you’re becoming a financial planner or going into one of the many other careers in finance.
For entry-level financial planners, that stress can be amplified. One of the main reasons for this is the time it takes to build a strong client base. A new financial planner will need to be continuously prospecting for their business book, as well as maintaining relationships with existing clients. Staying connected with them is paramount, because you can’t expect people to stick around if you ghost them to help new clients.
Another pressure point is the need to consistently stay on top of financial products and markets. No matter what area you specialise in, providing the best financial advice to your clients means staying up to date with fluctuating markets. That also includes being able to decipher the difference between fact and misinformation as new trends emerge.
You should also know the reliable sources of information. You might need to direct your clients to those before they make decisions based on inaccurate new data. This is where persistence and passion for the job truly shine through. Without persistence, and a personal desire to continuously develop your knowledge, you might find this part of your role arduous.
Then there’s the challenge of handling client emotions – they won’t always be positive, and you can expect some people to be scared, uncertain and even upset about their financial situation. In these cases, your human-centric skills will need to come into play.
“Keep calm, really listen to clients without speaking and interruption, and then truly understand where they are coming from,” Roland advises. “Try to step in their shoes, and always be polite and willing to help.”
Being able to emotionally relate to your clients is no easy feat, especially if you’ve got a very analytical mind. It’s important to understand that while you might be a logical thinker, your clients probably won’t be. Being able to understand their emotions will also help you manage their expectations, which is vital in ensuring they’re happy with your services.
By now, you probably have a pretty clear idea of what a financial planning career is like. It’s exciting and fast-paced, but stressful, and rewarding yet challenging. But, with passion and drive, you’ll find it hard not to love each day of the job.
With a variety of both free and paid financial planning courses online, there’s no reason you can’t dip your toe in the water before you dive in.
So, are you ready to start your journey as a financial planner?
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