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On the job with a Financial Planner

Financial Planner, FCSI, CIM, CFP, MBA, Credit Union

1. Tell me about your current job as a Financial Planner with one of Canadaís largest credit unions.

I am a Financial Planner with the second largest credit union in Canada. I provide financial planning advice, and mutual fund investing and insurance services. We are not on the IIROC platform so I do not provide security advice or transactions.

2. How did you get into the financial services industry?

I started working at Sunlife as a financial planner and then moved into management six months later with the credit union in North Vancouver Island. I was the manager for the wealth management division and travelled around Vancouver Island managing different branches and advising clients as well. Working in management let me do strategic planning as well.

3. What role do you like better Ė management or practicing as a Financial Planner?

I like to help people - whether it is clients, other planners, or companies - improve the quality of their life. I built my financial planning career on quality. Being a manager gave me the opportunity to mentor others and help them understand the basic value you need to have in this business.

4. Is there a difference between banks and credit unions?

Iíd like to say clients get better service at a credit union. We treat our members with a personal and unique touch and we deliver outstanding customer service. Our clients are very loyal and we consider them part of our family.

5. Do the credit union branches that you work with refer clients to you?

Yes, I work with the investment team and we have powerful contact management software that allows any of the 45 branches in British Columbia to serve our clients. Therefore it doesnít matter where the client is, can go into any branch and receive full service.

6. What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually get into the office around 8:30 am. I go through my email and reply to client emails immediately. I then read the Globe & Mail and National Post. Then I start seeing clients. The appointments are usually one hour long and I have an average of 3-5 appointments every day. I stop for lunch and then leave at 5 pm to spend time with my family.

I also teach online with Royal Roads University here in Victoria.

7. In your opinion, what attitudes and skills make a successful planner?

Donít focus too much on technical. Technical skills are needed, but they are implied from a clientís point of view. Similar to going to a doctor, you expect them to be qualified and have all the tools to provide you with a solution to your problem. Someone must have excellent personal skills and sales skills. Very good people skills are key Ė you donít have to be a mathematician. A lot of it is psychology. Clients want to feel that finally someone is listening to them and getting to the bottom of their problems. So the key skills I think are needed include people skills, listening skills, being motivated by helping build, the ability to build trust and the commitment to quality Ė you must have the clientís best interest first.

8. How many client assets do you think a Financial Planner needs to manage in order to be successful?

It keeps getting higher because clients are getting smarter. But really itís not about the numbers so much as the value proposition statement. If you put yourself in your clientís shoes, the sky is the limit!

9. Do you feel it is enough to just sell mutual funds and insurance?

No. Personally I believe that it is important to offer a full securities portfolio to our customers, but at this time we canít. We have a partnership with Qtrade and National Bank. So even though we canít advise on stocks, we can refer our customers to places that offer these services.

10. What is the salary potential for this job?

I get a salary and a bonus. The potential is over $100,000. Money is just one component. At the end of the day you are helping people and look at their face when you educate them on something they didnít already know.

There are no jobs out there where you can make a quick buck.

11. How has education played a roll in your career success?

If you are in business to give advice, you can never sit back. You need to constantly expand your knowledge. It is an evolving business and you need to stay up to date.

12. What is your view on designations?

I have the CIM, FCSI, STI, CFP, and CMC designations. Achieving these has definitely had a good impact on my career. They have helped to create opportunities and to build credibility. However, sometimes people who donít know what the designations mean might be intimidated by them which is something to keep in mind. Donít assume people know what your designations mean.

13. Which CSI course has helped you the most in the job you are doing now?

I started taking courses when I worked at Sunlife. I started with the Canadian Investment Funds course and then did the CSC which I have never regretted. The CSC gives you the basic knowledge and skills you need to have.

14. What advice do you have for people starting out in the financial services business?

I suggest people go and talk to other people in the business. Call a senior advisor and ask for an hour of their time Ė ask them for coffee or lunch. Pick their brain, ask questions about what they like and donít like about their job. Read industry magazines and ask if you can attend chapter meetings of the different industry designations or associations.

Equally as important, ask yourself what the fun things are you like to do. Youíll be amazed by what you can see yourself doing or not see yourself doing.

The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of the firms where they work.