There is a huge demand for Financial Advisors in India. In this write-up, we look at how one can become a financial advisor in India along with the opportunities and challenges in this career.
Are you looking at a career as a Financial Advisor in India?
There cannot be a better time to be one. Count out the short-term headwinds and slowdown in the economy, India is often being seen as the next big powerhouse for growth. It is slated to become the third-largest economy in the world by the end of the decade and would lift millions of people out of poverty and create one of the largest middle classes in the world. Today’s middle class in India is expected to move up the ladder in the due course of time. With higher disposable incomes and savings, the role of Financial Advisors would continue to grow and become important in our lives.
Do you need a special qualification to become a financial advisor? What are the roles and responsibilities you need to fulfill in this role? Likewise, you are likely to have questions on how to become a financial advisor in India or the career options you can explore in this field. If that sounds your case in this article, we shall look at the information you must know with regards to a career as a Financial Advisor.
What Does a Financial Advisor Do?
Financial Advisors wear different hats depending upon the industry they are in. The simplest definition of the role of a financial advisor would of that of a person who helps individuals, families, and organizations make decisions related to their investments, taxes, insurance planning, retirement planning, estate planning, and money management. Financial advisors work with different kinds of organizations, and these include –
- Banks & NBFCs
- Brokerage Firms
- Insurance Companies
- Wealth Management Firms
- Accounting & Tax Planning Firms
- Debt Management Firms
The primary role of a financial advisor is to help clients with their financial goals based on their unique requirements and challenges. This profession has gained great interest in India over the last three decades since the opening up of the economy which has led to huge growth in cash outlay and inflow among individuals and organizations. You can work as a part of an organization as we have mentioned earlier or start your firm. The ultimate desire for most Financial Advisors in India is to chalk out their path and work with their own set of clients.
Three Must-Have Traits for Financial Advisor
There are three main traits to a good financial advisor, and a top financial advisor needs to have each of these skills. These traits aren’t interchangeable and cannot be substituted. These include –
- Education – Some self-trained Financial Advisors have spent years in the industry and gained insights into this trade and have done well for themselves. However, this isn’t what you are aiming for and to find your foot in the industry you will need the right kind of education. Depending on the industry you choose to start your career in there are different kinds of eligibility criteria. Some organizations require candidates to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in finance or specialization in accounting and financial management to go with their bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, if you are looking to scale the top of the pyramid you must opt for CFP or the Certified Financial Planner Charter.
- Experience – We had mentioned earlier you can build an independent career as a Financial Advisor. As you’d know most clients are likely to prefer seeking advice from an experienced advisor instead of a rookie irrespective of the qualification. This is where financial advisors need to gain experience before turning independent. You can take up a job with a financial firm or intern under a top-rated advisor before you turn independent. In doing so you will become well acquainted with the fundamentals of the industry and the strategies applied on a case-to-case basis. The fact is irrespective of degree and qualification there is no substitute for experience.
- Soft Skills – The role of a financial advisor goes beyond reading numbers, interpreting them, and offering advice to clients. Numerous software and tools can do these jobs right now. Hence, along with education and experience, you also need to pick up several soft skills in the process. Communication skills are very important in this industry and in a diverse country like India proficiency in different languages is an added advantage. Apart from this you also need to pick up organizational skills and client servicing skills which would help you stay ahead of the competition.
Educational Qualification Requirements
A bachelor’s degree in the field of finance, law, business, accounting, or economics is the minimum qualification you need to be a financial advisor in India. A master’s degree in any of these streams would be a bonus. This profession requires additional licensing if you wish to get in helping clients buy bonds, securities, or insurance.
There are two types of Financial Advisors in India – Fee-Only Advisors and Commission Only Advisors. If you are joining a job with a firm, you may not have to bother with the additional certifications as either you won’t need to have all the certifications or the firm you join would help you with these certifications. As an independent advisor here are certain certifications you need to be aware of –
- Fee-only advisors need to be registered with SEBI certified financial advisors (Securities and Exchange Board of India) as an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor).
- Fee-Only Advisors need to obtain NISM (National Institute of Securities Market (NISM) Series-X-A: Investment Adviser (Level 1) as well as NISM Series-X-B: Investment Adviser (Level 2) certification to become an accredited advisor.
- Commission Only Advisors need to gain certification and take the Insurance IRDA Examinations IRDAI IC 38
- Commission Only Advisors who wish to work in the Mutual Funds industry must take the NISM-Service-V-A Distributors Certification Examination
- Both Fee-Only and Commission Only Advisors must earn their certification like CWM (Chartered Wealth Manager) from the National Institute of Securities Market
The career path for Financial Advisors is fast growing in India and millions of people would be engaged in one of the many facets of the industry in the coming years. The educational qualification and certification requirements that we have mentioned above would put you at the bottom of the pyramid and from there on it is your knowledge, client servicing qualities, and interpersonal skills that would define your career.
This career path is competitive and at the top level, the competition increases. However, if you are looking to start at the top of the pyramid and wish to get into the seven or eight-figure annual salary mark at the beginning of your career you should seriously consider opting for the CFP or Certified Financial Planner path.
This is one of the most coveted degrees or charters that one can have in the financial industry and there are less than 2000 charter holders in India. This certification is Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB). An internationally recognized certification, it is much in demand in the financial consultancy career. If you hold the CFP charter you can expect to start your career as a financial advisor at the top executive level in any firm.
CFPs are still a rare find in India and even rarer in the role of financial advisors. After earning your charter, you can provide your services in the capacity of a top consultant or represent big organizations in offering financial advice to their employees or other clients. This can open up career opportunities like no other and help you reach the greatest heights in this industry.
Opportunities and Challenges
We have so far covered the basics of becoming a financial advisor in India and looked at the job role and responsibilities. This career path offers immense growth opportunities and shall continue to do so in the future but there are challenges that you’d encounter all along the path. Let us now list the major opportunities and challenges in this field
- Fast-growing investment, tax planning industry
- No boredom with new learning opportunities
- Good salaries and other perks of the job
- Flexibility in work schedule
- Ability to turn independent profession early in career
- Meeting client expectations regularly
- Being objective amidst emotions and fledging expectations
- Sailing through rough markets when returns can turn negative
- Staying updated with industry and government policies
- Maintaining a strong relationship with all clients
To sum up, the role of a financial advisor is quite a challenging and at the same time an exciting one. There are few things as gratifying as helping clients make the best financial decisions and grow their investments. But this also comes with its set of responsibilities as hundreds of people would make their financial decisions based on your advice.
It is a career path that requires you to offer tailored advice to clients based on their unique goals and challenges and strictly adhere to confidentiality rules. If you have your heart in the game and don’t mind putting in the long hours for the benefit of your clients, financial growth and job satisfaction won’t ever be an issue in this career path.