Career story: becoming a financial adviser and chartered

01 July, 2021Juno Baker

Sarah Seeley started as an office junior before becoming a paraplanner, and then a financial adviser. Now a Chartered Associate of LIBF and a company director, she tells us about studying for DipFA and Adv DipFA – and why chartered status means she’s taken more seriously as a young professional.

Laptop and plantWhen I entered the industry 18 years ago financial advice was very sales oriented and I never felt it suited me as a career. It was figures on league boards, who’s the top adviser this month and all revenue was driven through commission.

Whilst I never felt this was an issue, it was clear that clients didn’t understand how financial advisers were paid. The confusion around commission made it seem like a grey area. 

But in December 2012 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) and financial advice began to evolve into a service. I felt it was now a career that did suit me.

I was getting married in 2014 and we were talking about having a family. I suppose I’d got to that stage where I realised I needed take control of my career, start planning where I wanted to be, and how I was going to get there. 

Initially I studied with another provider but didn’t find the course at all engaging. The structure was very much head in textbook. Personally this was something I struggled with.  

Then I was offered an opportunity to study LIBF’s Level 4 Diploma in Financial Advice qualification through the Intrinsic adviser school – now known as Quilter Financial Adviser School (QFAS).

The course was much more in line with the way I learn and the LIBF material was more relevant to my day job.

I especially loved the research element of the coursework for Advanced Financial Advice (AFA), because there wasn’t a textbook giving you the answer. It was you going out to find that answer to put together this coursework.

It was a great way to learn the material and a fantastic way to ensure that the knowledge stuck!    

Studying for the Level 6 Diploma in Financial Advice (Adv DipFA)

Assessment for Adv DipFA is a mix of exams and coursework, but again, I found the coursework a real ‘hands on’ way to learn the material and the technical content.

The content was so easy to digest and for me it was excellent, especially in areas that I struggle with like managing investments at Level 6!

Sarah SeeleyWhen I was studying for Level 6, it surprised me that it’s not a requirement for all advisers to have this level of knowledge when dealing with clients. What we do, and the conversations we have with clients, can be quite complex.

This is especially true when you’re collaborating with other professionals and they are feeding into the work. Involving other professionals like accountants, tax advisers and solicitors brings the whole process together. 

It’s important to understand everyone’s role so your conversations become more meaningful. You might be aware of tax and how to calculate it, but having that extra bit of knowledge from a Level 6 qualification really helps.

Going for chartered status

With Adv DipFA and three years relevant experience, I was eligible for chartered status.

The truth is clients don’t see the difference between who’s chartered and who’s not. My experience is other professionals I’ve worked alongside are more interested in whether you’re chartered or not. 

Being chartered also helps with the way we’re perceived at my firm, Kind Wealth, where – for financial advisers – we’re all relatively young, compared to the average age of a financial adviser in the UK.

Sometimes you get bias and discrimination because of how young you look. People won’t take you seriously.

Having that extra level of technical ability – and chartered status to prove it – allows you to throw those preconceptions out the window.

The exciting thing about being young is we’ve got years ahead of us. We’re really keen to expand so we’re working with QFAS to bring new people on board and help them qualify.

While they’re studying, we help them get more confident with networking and working with other professionals – and to understand things like due diligence.

Again, QFAS has been fantastic supporting us with this. Their programme with LIBF is brilliant!

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Find out more about the Level 6 Diploma in Financial Advice (Adv DipFA)