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Student of the year: How I became a financial planning pro

Student of the year: How I became a financial planning pro

The (BA) financial services, planning and management programme at Manchester Metropolitan University (now it has been renamed to (BA) banking and finance) gives students like myself a decent platform upon which to develop a career in the financial planning field, because of the quality and relevance of studies undertaken.

The degree assumes no prior knowledge of the financial services industry, and is very diverse. It incorporates in-depth technical knowledge, concepts and management practices commonly applied in the process of financial planning.

As a part of my degree I had an opportunity to work on a group assignment case study which was developed in conjunction with Chartered Institute of Securities & Investment/ Institute of Financial Planning and is very similar to a real world scenario.

Working as a team we evaluated client’s needs and objectives, prioritised them and then produced a holistic financial planning report for a family covering all key areas of financial advice – estate planning, retirement planning, investment planning & taxation and protection. We then had to present our financial recommendation to the client.

360 Degree

The degree covers all the key areas of finance including insurance, retail banking, risk management, corporate finance, regulation and ethics, accounting and economics foundations that gives undergraduates a well rounded understanding of how the financial markets operate in the real world which I am personally passionate about.

Importantly the programme has developed my thinking and equipped me with the skills to be successful in this sector such as communication, critical and analytical thinking and ability to work in a team environment. To be successful you need to combine an expert knowledge of the sector and its specialist products with excellent inter-personal skills.

Trust and professional reputation is crucial since the 2008 financial crisis, with events such as the Libor manipulation scandal and many other mis-selling practices having had a corrosive impact on the finance industry.

My degree gives me a framework for establishing and maintaining long lasting relationships with clients promoting honesty, integrity and taking ownership for any mistakes made.

Getting the word out

Very few people, including potential employers, are aware of the existence of this degree. When I joined the MMU in 2012 we had only around 20 students compared to 400 studying accounting and economics. If you tell anyone that you are studying financial planning probably the first question asked is 'What is financial planning?' There is a lot of scope for promoting the planning degree not only among students, but employers as well.

Establishing close links between universities that offer such programmes and financial planning firms of all sizes, which I know CISI is working towards, could be a promising step forward to improve the awareness and attractiveness of this degree.

There is also a noticeable generation gap in the planning profession, with the average age of adviser around the age of 50. The need for fresh blood into financial planning is becoming more apparent.

The course I studied does not promote a one-size-fits-all solution, because every client is not the same. I have been working for an independent financial advice firm in Manchester during my sandwich programme.

This allowed me to gain nine to 12 months of relevant work experience which helped me to apply theoretical principles and knowledge, demonstrate and improve my skill set and achieve strong results in my final year.

Antolijs Babanovs was  the CISI financial planning student of the year 2016.

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