Five tips for starting a career in personal finance
Personal finance is a rewarding career pathway with many choices in jobs – with some jobs yet to be created thanks to the advance of financial technology (Fintech). In 2018, there were 800,000 Australians employed in financial services – about 6% of the entire economy [x]. Financial services encompasses (but isn’t limited to) jobs in sectors such as:
- banking and lending
- financial markets and financial planning
- insurance and superannuation
- mortgage and financial broking
- accounting and bookkeeping
- financial technology (Fintech).
Jobs in lending, broking, and planning are more weighted toward personal finance – helping individuals or families with their finances, be it with lending or planning their wealth for the future.
Finance is everywhere in society, and you can help shape the future of finance and the greater economy by gaining employment in the sector.
But where do you start? Here are five tips for starting a career in personal finance, guided by advice from Bill Tsouvalas, a broker and now Managing Director of leading personal broking firm Savvy Finance.
Complete a Certificate IV or higher
Most jobs in personal finance will look for candidates with at least a Certificate IV or higher in the Federal Government’s Financial Services Training package which offers 46 separate qualifications. Certificate IV or Diplomas are available in accounting, mortgage broking, financial markets, insurance, credit management, financial services, and risk management.
This equips you with the basic skills in personal finance that you’ll use on a day-to-day basis. These skills include ethical conduct, compliance, and good financial practice. According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, most people enrolled in financial services courses were at the Certificate IV level (2019).
“Core financial and personal finance skills are the priority in any financial services job,” Bill Tsouvalas says. “You need good problem-solving skills, the ability to think critically and analytically, and have good information technology literacy. Thanks to the growing trend of working from home or off-site, you’ll also need to be autonomous and work unsupervised while driving results for your company or firm.”
Get work experience
If you are shopping around for certificates or diplomas, look for a TAFE course or an RTO that offers genuine work experience as part of the curriculum.
If you can, try to gain placement in a graduate program or work experience program at your TAFE or registered training organisation.
“A graduate program is more valuable than the formal education component,” Tsouvalas says. “Banks and lenders often give graduates time in many different aspects of finance so you can choose your niche, such as helping clients seek personal finance. It’s ultra-competitive, so you need to put in a lot of time and effort to really impress your recruiters.”
Most jobs are on the “hidden market” – those found via networking and industry referrals, not on job boards.
“Many jobs are only listed online as a matter of professional compliance; or the company is at their wits end,” Tsouvalas says.
“Joining chambers of commerce, industry councils, graduate groups, and other networking groups is crucial to be seen and heard when starting your career. Even if you decide to go freelance, this is where you can gain insights into the industry from veterans as well as opportunities that aren’t advertised anywhere else.”
Up your soft skills – customer service and technology
Even time spent in other entry-level jobs can help you gain a foothold into personal finance. The “personal” in personal finance means you’ll be dealing with people one-to-one, which means patience, communication skills, and customer service are highly prized skills by employers.
If you’re good with computers and software packages, it can be a big advantage when coming into personal finance jobs.
“A lot of what you’ll see in personal finance is run on technology or Fintech,” Tsouvalas says. Some personal finance jobs deal directly with technology and computers themselves, such as ensuring compliance with anti-fraud tech or preventing cybercrime.”
Even if you are studying part-time or have a degree in Science or Communication that’s gathering dust, you can still land a job in personal finance by educating yourself using online courses, books, and other resources.
Finance is a job that doesn’t stand still: regulations come and go, apps come online even new methods of payment become available from time to time.
“If you told me there would be a type of fungible, decentralised, computer-generated token that’s instantly tradable and worth $50,000 per unit when I first started my career, I would have laughed,” says Tsouvalas.
“I’m of course talking about cryptocurrency – Bitcoin specifically. Just because you got your MBA in 1990 doesn’t mean you’re an expert now. You need to continually build your skills, get educated in the new reality of personal finance. It can change from day to day.
A lot of the manual pen-and-paper stuff I did early in my career is now automated. But I also need to keep on top of compliance. Self-education is the biggest step forward into any personal finance career.”
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
CEO | Savvy
Bill Tsouvalas is the founder and CEO of Savvy, one of Australia’s leading financial institutions. He frequently shares his knowledge and ideas on finance, mortgage, money and investment in the media.