Lindsay Hallford speaks to Kirsty Stone about her journey to becoming a Chartered financial adviser
Becoming a Chartered financial adviser ensures that a personal finance professional is recognised by their peers, their employer and, most importantly, by those seeking advice.
Independent research confirms that the public places huge importance on talking to a professional and that Chartered status is the most respected indicator of professionalism.
Lindsay Hallford and Kirsty Stone are financial advisers at Chartered financial planning firm The Private Office.
The Private Office has been a Chartered firm for almost eight years, with an average adviser age of 38 and a focus on encouraging more women into the profession, The Private Office is a team of independent, financial planning experts working together to protect and grow their clients’ wealth.
Ms Hallford – who has recently been certificated as an adviser with The Private Office – has studied for various qualifications within the profession. She has recognition of prior learning towards the CII Advanced Diploma and is about to complete her journey towards personal Chartered status.
Here, Ms Hallford speaks to colleague and Women in Financial Advice Awards finalist, Kirsty Stone, about what being Chartered means to her and what it takes to get there.
Lindsay Hallford (LH): Chartered financial planner is one of the most highly recognised qualifications in the profession – why did you decide to become a Chartered financial planner?
Kirsty Stone (KS): I am proud to say I have now been Chartered for three years and saw Chartered status as a clear marker to confirm my competence as an adviser. Exams and qualifications are crucial to evidence your expertise, particularly at the beginning of your career, when you have limited live client examples to evidence this. I knew I wanted to obtain Chartered status as quickly as possible and was able to achieve this within five years of joining the profession. The exam process provided me with a great structure to build my career but also challenged my knowledge to ensure I was building the correct foundations to be a great adviser for my clients.
LH: As with most people, work-life balance is important to me. Do you think it is possible to fit everything in?
KS: The trickiest part of becoming Chartered is the time it takes to prepare for the exams. It is important to understand how you learn and be smart about timing the exams you book. I realised that as soon as I became an established adviser, my time would become consumed with establishing and maintaining client relationships, which is why I feel trying to tackle some of the exams before becoming an adviser is crucial. I also chose to complete one coursework-based module, which allowed me to manage my time better rather than having a hard-stop exam date in the diary.
It certainly consumed many of my weekends and evenings but I took the view that it was worth doing, as I saw the value and credibility it could offer me and my clients. It is important not to be too hard on yourself or put yourself in a situation where your day-to-day work or personal life is too compromised.
Although I am now an experienced adviser, continuing with exams ensures I remain up to date with changes in legislation and stops me forgetting an intricacy that could be detrimental to my clients if missed, so I continue to enrol in exams despite having my Chartered status secured
LH: Typically, four Advanced Diploma exams are needed to achieve Chartered status. Luckily, due to recognition of prior learning, I only have two Advanced Diploma exams to pass. How long did it take you to study for each exam? So myself and others have an idea of how long the journey may take.
KS: I too was able to claim credits for prior learning because of my degree, which was great news. I know that I study best by writing notes on each chapter and then dedicating a lot of time to past papers. I would always try and have notes ready at a minimum a month before the exam, and then allow myself the month prior to the exam to complete as many past papers as possible.
LH: What are the benefits of achieving Chartered status?
KS: When I joined The Private Office two years ago as an adviser, I had spoken with several firms and interviewed with a range of businesses. I have no doubt my Chartered status acted as a good indicator of why I was a suitable candidate for the roles and got me through the door to an interview. In my experience, the expectation of an adviser now is that they are Chartered or working towards Chartered to progress their careers.
The biggest part of a client relationship is trust, so where I can quickly reassure them that I am technically knowledgeable with my Chartered accreditation, it immediately ticks one box on the question: ‘Can I trust this person with my life savings?’ This leaves me to build a rapport and relationship with the client using softer skills and applying my knowledge to their circumstances.
LH: Finally, what would your advice be for someone who is at the very start of their journey towards Chartered status?
KS: A great adviser will already have the knowledge and it is therefore a matter of focusing on the exams and applying the knowledge you already have. Although I am now an experienced adviser, continuing with exams ensures I remain up to date with changes in legislation and stops me forgetting an intricacy that could be detrimental to my clients if missed, so I continue to enrol in exams despite having my Chartered status secured. I am incredibly proud to be a Chartered financial adviser and would say it is definitely worth the time commitment.