Advice on getting started

Hi all. I'm doing a bit of a career change and working on getting some experience and qualification to get me started on the track to becoming a financial planner. I've been doing lots of research and found this website which is full of useful information. It has also been exciting to find a community so passionate about the job and eager to help each other. I'm hoping you might be able to help me with a couple of questions...

From what I have found so far it seems I should aim to find a role as a trainee paraplanner or similar support role. I've also started working on some qualifications. Firstly, is this the right entry point? I'm keen to work for a small firm where I can see and get experience of the whole business rather than a large firm or bank where I might only see a small part of the process. Does this sound sensible?

Secondly, I've started working on the CISI Investment Advice Diploma which I understand to be the required qualification by the FCA. i chose the CISI partly because I have friends who had qualified through them in the past (although for different roles) and also because it is quite a flexible process and I can do it while still working full time. However, the more I researched the more I saw the CII being mentioned and I'm now wondering if that is the preferred body. Is there a preference among employers?

Any thoughts, advice or tips you can give would be really helpful at this stage. Thanks!


  • Hi Robd,

    I fell into the paraplanning profession a year ago by starting to work one day a week as an administrator for a friend who is a financial planner. I am really enjoying it and find everyone in the powwows so supportive. There is a lot studying to be done, but I am finding that the more work experience I gain, the easier the studying is becoming.

    Perhaps you can look for an administrative role within a financial planning firm or a trainee financial planner position?

    I noticed on Twitter that Unividual have a couple of trainee positions available at the moment:

    and the NextGen planners have a jobs board with quite a few opportunities on it too

    Have a look at podcasts from The Financial Life Coach Podcast, NextGen podcast, Meaningful Money Podcast for some good insights into the world of financial planning. I am finding them all really useful!

  • RobdRobd Member
    Hi Becky, thank you for the useful tips! Any thoughts on the qualifications and whether people regard one more highly than the others?
  • Hi Rob

    As someone who employs paraplanners, I tend to look for CII exams first, partially as that is what we support as a business and partially I guess due to my own biases, having achieved Chartered status through the CII. This is still (by far?) the most popular way of obtaining Level 4 in financial planning

    We have seen a few people having obtained Level 4 through  the London Institute of Banking & Finance recently (Diploma in Financial Advice), although I tend to not view this as positively as the CII*.

    I see very few prospective paraplanners (or financial planners) who have achieved the Investment Advice Diploma; one CV if I recall in the past 12 months, and he wanted to be in investments really so we didn't ask to see him. In all honestly I would prefer CII/LIBF as I see the CISI, with the exception of the CFP, as being investment focussed and not financial planning. Whilst I suspect a smaller IFA would probably have a similar view to mine, if your aim is to eventually work for a large DFM / Private Bank with a financial planning business then I suspect the IAD would be just as highly thought of as any other pathway to Level 4. However, it may be a barrier to start with in a small firm?

    As Becky said, administrator is probably the best starting point for learning or trainee paraplanner/IFA if this is available. We are a mid sized company and our junior paraplanner role is aimed at people who have been working as an administrator and have made strides to achieve their diploma i.e. they have passed at least a couple of exams.

    Hope that is of some help



    *Don't jump on me! I haven't taken DiPFA so other than reading a little about what it is, I am a bit blind to the quality required. Because it is coursework, and one written exam, my perception is it is easier but I am probably 100% wrong!

  • RobdRobd Member
    Hi Tim,

    Seems pretty clear, will switch over to CII and start looking for that admin role straight away.

  • richallumrichallum Administrator
    As an employer and exam taker, I'd back up previous comments and recommend going CII route.  

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. Republican.

  • LIBF level 4 is rather easy and quick compared to CII so if you just want to get in the door, consider this, although admittedly you wont end up as technically strong as a CII level 4 graduate. 
  • RobdRobd Member
    Hi richallum and Ralfos, thank you for your thoughts. I think the general consensus has been that CII is typical route, what employers look for and gives a good all round knowledge base on which to build so will start working on that.

    Not sure if this is the right place to post this so forgive me if it isn't but does anyone know of any small directly authorised firms in London where I could get some practical experience while I'm studying?  
  • Hi @Robd, your best bet on that one is to make contact on Linkedin with a few firms, or visit their websites and contact them that way. A quick Google search or Unbiased will bring up a whole host of firms for London.

    Alternatively, you could speak to a few of the London recruitment firms (there are many) and tell them what you're looking for. Beware though - some adviser firms are loathe to using or conversing with recruitment firms for a whole host of reasons, and you'd need to make sure you join up with a reputable one. 

    Hope this helps


    Late to the party but looking to launch a new platform due diligence tool and consultancy business later this year - watch this space and feel free to message if you would like any initial info.

  • richallumrichallum Administrator
    Hi @Robd a good option could be to go to CII or CISI London meetings and do some networking.

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. Republican.

  • I would second networking - I got an interview with a couple of IFA firms on the basis of relationship building through networking and I am starting as a Paraplanner with one of them later this month.  It really does work!

    I have also found that the CII route is probably the way to go - most IFAs support studying with them and if you prefer to use alternative study options instead of the CII study texts, you'll find they are normally geared toward the CII qualification.
  • RobdRobd Member
    Thank you all for the valuable advice. I've now switched to the CII program and am working on the networking. Will let you know how I get on.
  • I’ve only been in the industry 1 year and I would say if your new to the industry definitely start with junior administrator or administrator. You will get a better understanding from there and understand the whole process. I’m studying CII level 4 in Regulated Financial Planning at the same time as working full time and having 2 children aged 2 and 7. Wouldn’t change it. I study every lunchtime and every evening when they have gone to bed. I definitely see a good future. Good luck with your venture!

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