Career story: studying for Level 6 as a paraplanner

31 January, 2022Juno Baker

Manchester-based, Alison Swift works as an adviser and analyst and has been in financial advice for 22 years. She tells us about studying for her Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Financial Advice, and how the qualification has helped her progress.

Alison Swift with her dog Ozzy in the hillsI was working as a paraplanner when I sat my first Level 6 exam. I wasn’t in any hurry to achieve Level 6 status as such, although now, I am registered as chartered. My reason for studying was to acquire knowledge so that I could do my job to the best of my ability.   

I particularly wanted to broaden my knowledge of the tax implications of trusts. As a paraplanner, I was working on a lot of inheritance tax planning cases as well as ‘enterprise investment scheme’ (EIS) cases. 

What are your top tips for studying the Level 6 Adv DipFA?

The most challenging part is dedicating enough hours. I had to be really disciplined. I’d work for six to eight hours on a Saturday plus two hours each night of the week. Sunday was my only free day.

The first tip would be to keep up with the weekly activities. Falling behind wasn’t really an option for me as it would have been too challenging to catch up.

The second tip would be to work to a timetable.  Review your working week and work out where you will be able to fit your studies in. Then stick to the timetable.

How has Level 6 helped you in your role?

I really enjoyed studying the tax and trusts unit more than any other. I found the examples of case law really interesting. It’s been really useful due to the number of tax planning cases I work on.

And I’ve used my increased knowledge of pensions, trusts and asset allocation when reviewing advice on pensions and when I occasionally advise on ‘defined benefit’ transfers.

My earnings increased nicely within four months of passing in January 2020. Since then, I’ve been offered other job roles, but I’m really happy where I am. I have autonomy and flexibility in terms of  managing my workload and hours and I enjoy the challenging cases that I have to deal with.

Do you think it’s important to continue learning and developing as a professional?

Yes, learning and developing is important so that whatever job you do, you can do it to the best of your ability.

It shouldn’t just be about work though as there’s so much more out there to think and learn about. I’ve just signed up to do a reiki course in February and I’ve also done a course in mindfulness and meditation.

And I do enjoy a challenge.  I’ve done three skydives and in my spare time,  I’m always hiking and mountain climbing. I recently conquered Striding Edge and will be doing Crib Goch when the weather is a bit better.

In my professional life, I’ve enrolled to study the Certificate in Long-term Care and Later Life Planning (CertLTCP). We have a number of older clients and want to advise them on investing funds to generate an income for funding their care. That requires a licence so I volunteered to study CertLTCP.

I like to say yes to as many opportunities as possible.

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More about the Level 6 Diploma in Financial Advice (Adv DipFA)