Meet Lindsay Hallford and Kirsty Stone, both financial advisers at national Chartered financial planning firm The Private Office
With an average adviser age of 38 and a focus on encouraging more women into the profession, The Private Office is an award-winning team of independent, financial planning experts working together to protect and grow their client’s wealth. United by an ethos to provide personal and bespoke wealth management services to all clients, The Private Office has been a Chartered firm for almost eight years.
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. So, who better for her to talk to and get the inside track on what it means to be Chartered and what it takes to get there, than her colleague and Women in Financial Advice Awards finalist, senior adviser Kirsty Stone, who has been Chartered for three years.
- LH: CII Chartered financial planner status is one the most highly recognised qualifications in the profession. Why did you decide to become a Chartered financial planner and did you always see yourself aiming for Chartered status?
KS:- I saw Chartered status as a clear marker to confirm my competence as an adviser. Starting my career as a paraplanner, I understood the importance of having strong technical knowledge to draw upon when constructing advice. Exams and qualifications are crucial to evidence your expertise, particularly at the beginning of your career, where 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 – this exam process provided me with a great structure to build my career around but also pushed and 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 alongside a busy work and personal life?
KS:- The trickiest part of becoming Chartered is of course the time it takes to prepare for the exams. I think it’s 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 a bit 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. I personally need a deadline in the diary to ensure I don’t procrastinate and can prioritise the revision required; this meant that as soon as I finished one module, I would book the next one. Rather than delaying the decision and ultimately leaving myself with too little time to prepare if I booked at the last minute, I could collate the necessary resources and look through my professional and personal schedule to see what weeks were best for me to really focus on studying. For example, if I had holidays booked or a particularly busy month of personal commitments, it was unrealistic to think I would fit in hours of study time. Likewise, if I was aware a month was particularly busy at work, I could again manage this to not put myself in a situation that was too pressured and be left feeling like I’d fallen behind because I was not in line with my study planner. It’s 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.
- 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 that 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 least 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? How has it helped you and your career so far? Have you found that having Chartered status helps you from both a career-progression perspective as well as from a client perspective?
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 that my Chartered status acted as a good indicator of why I was a suitable candidate for the roles and got me through the door for an interview. In my experience, the expectation of an adviser now is that they are Chartered or working towards Chartered to progress their careers. Financial advice is an increasingly popular profession to work in, and to secure the best role at the most credible firm, I do believe Chartered status is necessary.
In addition to this, any of the prospective clients I meet are reassured to know and understand that I am Chartered. The biggest part of a client/adviser relationship is trust, so when I can quickly reassure them that I am technically knowledgeable, with my Chartered accreditation, it immediately ticks one box if the client is thinking: “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: I would encourage anyone to commit to Chartered status. It is a great accolade to hold and quite frankly, 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. Continuing with exams, although I’m now an experienced adviser, 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. I continue to enrol in exams despite having my Chartered status secured. I am incredibly proud to be a Chartered adviser and would say it is definitely worth the time commitment and stress that goes into the process.
For more information about The Private Office, click here.