My Grad Story, So Far

This post was originally published by Joe Kaitcer on First Wealth’s website, here:

It’s nearly two years since I walked through the doors of First Wealth. I’d recently graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a 1st honours degree in Financial Services, Planning and Management and had secured a place on First Wealth’s graduate programme. I was proud to be the first graduate to enrol in the programme and excited to be part of something that was as new for the company as it was for myself. Two years in, I’ve loved every minute of it. Here’s my story so far and some of the many things I’ve learnt in the process.

The Path from Theory to Practice

I started my university studies doing a degree in Business Management but I soon realised I wasn’t passionate enough about it for it to keep my interest for the next three years. My tutor arranged for me to have a meeting with the head tutor on Financial Services course and something just clicked. I had always liked economics and finance and had studied them at school, although didn’t know how I could use them in my career. This course provided the answer.

Straight after graduating, I did an internship with a bank and took up a job in their corporate banking division. It became clear that the role wouldn’t give me the opportunity to use what I’d learnt on my Financial Services course, so I got in contact with my university tutor again and he put me in touch with First Wealth. They were looking to recruit a recent graduate to take the first place on their graduate programme and invited me for an interview. I was lucky enough to get the place.

How the Graduate Programme Works

When I started at First Wealth, it immediately struck me that the atmosphere was very different from a corporate bank. There’s more freedom and trust, and you have the flexibility to make the role your own and progress at a pace that suits you. The environment’s not as formal (I didn’t need to wear a suit and tie!) but you are surrounded by people on hand to offer support and guidance whenever you need it. The programme doesn’t have a strict timeline to adhere to, but there are three stages that a trainee will pass through.

Stage one: The first stage is primarily admin-related, allowing new recruits to learn the business through the nitty-gritty. When you enter any new profession, you need to start with the basics. The administrative tasks help to build knowledge from the ground up, and in wealth planning include valuations, writing suitability letters for clients, and researching new business.

Stage two: At this stage, graduates take on the responsibilities of an analyst. They gain experience at client meetings with advisers and progress on to more complex admin jobs like pension transfers and dealing with new business. They learn how to work out cash flows using systems like Voyant and prepare forecasts for clients, as well as presenting directly to them.

Stage three: By stage three of the programme, the graduate trainees will be ready to become advisers. All the technical knowledge they have amassed and the relationship and trust-building skills they have learnt come together to allow them to be given their own clients to look after and build their client portfolio.

The Work / Study Balance

Alongside the job-based learning, trainee advisers will also be studying for their technical financial adviser qualifications at the same time. Usually, they’ll need to complete six exams to qualify as an adviser (RO1 — RO6). If you want to become a chartered financial adviser after this, you will need to study for and pass another six on top of these. Each of the exams require about two months’ revision and preparation — you need to be disciplined and committed to get through them all.

Organisation is key to this, as is being strict in giving yourself enough time to get your studying done. My tip is not to get into the habit of working too long or late at the office to the extent that you don’t have the time or energy left at the end of the day for studying. Also, in preparing for the exams themselves, I found it useful to speak to people who had been through the experience. They gave me some valuable practical advice, such as where to get the best sample exam questions from.

Good Financial Adviser Material

The key quality that all good financial advisers must have is trustworthiness. A client needs to be able to trust their adviser implicitly for the relationship to work so being personable, affable and friendly is a big part of the role. You need to like people and be genuinely interested in their lives, goals and aspirations to be able to do the best job for them. In addition to these softer skills, it’s vital that an adviser has a solid foundation of technical knowledge. They need to be on top of developments in the market and fully understand the products and instruments they are recommending to their clients.

I feel that being the youngest team member at First Wealth is also a great advantage. There are not many advisers out there of my age and I’m aware that I bring something different and fresh with my relative youth and vitality (without wanting to call my beloved colleagues ‘old’!). However, new recruits to the financial advice profession do have to remember however is that it’s only with patience that you can build a successful career as an adviser. You might be ambitious and impatient to succeed and progress but it’s important to learn everything from the bottom so that you can build up trust and knowledge, the strong foundations of client relationships.

The Appeal of a Career in Financial Advising

The appeal of working in a profession that I understand and enjoy cannot be underestimated. It’s a role that gives me great fulfilment. One thing I always come back to whenever anyone asks me about my job is the capacity that being a financial adviser offers for you to help people in their lives.

As an example, my brother used to be an investment banker but never really felt he was helping people, with the focus being solely on making money. For me, as an adviser, I feel like I can help to make money for clients but, through lifestyle financial planning, I can also make a real difference to their quality of life too. Knowing that I have the knowledge and ability to improve their lives gives me a great feeling. The satisfaction of this and the prestige of being a part of this profession are a big part of what I love about the role.

Specifically on First Wealth, it is a great place to work. We don’t just preach the importance of work-life balance, we live it. The integrity of the message comes through loud and clear. We advise and help our clients to live and enjoy their lives in the here and now and this is a philosophy that First Wealth extends to its team members too.

A Career for You?

I’ve been here two years and I’m still learning and progressing in my role. I did my first advanced level exam recently and I’m looking forward to getting the results in June. It goes without saying that I’d recommend a career as a financial adviser to any interested students or graduates out there. If you’re someone who has the technical ability to get to grips with the maths and the data, you like building relationships and helping people, and are willing to learn and study hard, then you could have a great career in this profession. Bull or bear market, people will always need financial advisers. And one day that adviser could be you.

If you would like to find out more about our graduate programme please get in touch.