What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

There are many paths to becoming a financial advisor. Discover the varied roles of these professionals who work to find the best way to achieve their clients’ financial goals.

[Featured image] A financial advisor in a wheelchair sits in front of a computer with a stack of financial reports in front of her.

A financial advisor is a professional who recommends products and strategies to achieve a client’s financial goals. Advice ranges from setting up budgets for clients to choosing investments and recommending tax-advantaged accounts for education or retirement savings.

Financial advisors typically work at investment firms, banks, and insurance companies, but independent financial advisors choose to be self-employed in their own advisory firms. If you like the idea of teaching others how to make better financial decisions, researching investment options, and building relationships, consider a career as a financial advisor.

What is a financial advisor?

There are many different types of financial advisors. Here are some common examples:

  • Asset manager

  • Certified financial planner (CFP)

  • Chartered investment manager (CIM)

  • Financial coach

  • Financial consultant

  • Financial planner

  • Investment advisor

  • Personal banker

  • Wealth advisor

Financial advisors with a designation like CFP or CIM must complete the requirements to earn the title. This typically includes finishing an education program, passing a test, and agreeing to follow a set of guidelines that govern their practice.

What do financial advisors do?

A financial advisor helps clients decide how to manage their money. They assess their client’s financial health and determine their long- and short-term goals before making recommendations to meet them. 

Financial advisors help invest their clients’ money in the stock market and other types of investments, recommend products like life insurance, or offer assistance with tax planning. They may also educate their clients about their financial health and habits that can help them build their wealth. 

In addition to working directly with clients, financial advisors spend time marketing their services. Many financial advisors may spend a considerable amount of time establishing and building relationships with their clients.

Essential skills for financial advisors

Being a successful financial advisor requires more than an interest in finance and an aptitude for numbers. As a financial advisor, you may likely need to brush up on these workplace and technical skills.

  • Financial aptitude: Financial advisors should have a good understanding of financial products, as well as a broader knowledge of how the world of finance operates in order to make the best decisions for clients.

  • Customer-first mentality: Putting clients’ needs first is a hallmark of a good financial advisor. If you become a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) or CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), you’ll be responsible for acting within a code of ethics.

  • Marketing yourself: Part of your job will likely include building relationships with clients and seeking out new business. Maintaining contacts, building a social media presence, and creating a website for yourself will be useful.

  • Presenting: You may be presenting personalized plans for clients or speaking to a group about financial products and how your services can benefit them. Good verbal and written communicationskills will be necessary.

Why pursue a career as a financial advisor

If you like working with spreadsheets, calculating figures, and tracking investments, you may consider a career as a financial advisor. However, there’s more to this field than numbers. You also have an opportunity to help people navigate what can be an opaque industry to many. 

Financial advisor jobs offer plenty of variety, and you can choose a specialty that aligns with your interests and skill set. Some financial advisors specialize in an area like retirement planning or wealth management. Others work with a specific type of client—like teachers—and offer general financial advice. Others specialize in a product, such as life insurance.

Working as a financial advisor can be a rewarding experience. Not only do you help clients build and manage their wealth, but you also have an opportunity to improve their lives as you show them how to develop financial confidence. According to Maclean’s, Canada’s aging population, growing life expectancy, and immigration rates will contribute to a high demand for financial planning for years to come, ensuring a positive outlook for professionals in the industry [1].  

How to become a financial advisor

The path to becoming a financial advisor can vary depending on the type of work you eventually want to do. Here are a few options for getting started.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. 

Personal financial advisors usually have a bachelor’s degree. Many financial advisors have a degree in finance, economics, business, or accounting. If you decide to become a Certified Financial Planner, you’ll need to complete a CFP Board Registered Program, which could be a certificate program or an accredited degree program.

2. Get licensed.

If you want to sell products like bonds, mutual funds, and securities, you’ll need to complete the Canadian Securities Course offered by the Canadian Securities Institute (CSI). The CSI also offers pathways to designations such as Personal Financial Planner (PFP), Chartered Investment Manager (CIM), and Certified International Wealth Manager (CIWM).

Once you’ve earned the appropriate licenses and designations, you’ll need to register with a regulatory body called the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). 

 3. Self-study. 

You don’t necessarily need formal training to work as a financial coach who teaches people healthy financial habits (though it’ll certainly build credibility). It’s possible to learn the skills you need by taking online courses or reading books about the subject. Here are a few to get you started:

Next steps

Build a foundation for a career as a financial advisor by earning certificates or your degree. Consider the course Personal & Family Financial Planning offered by the University of Florida. Study online and at your own pace with options like the Bachelor of Science in General Business from the University of North Texas or the Online Master of Accounting (iMSA) from the University of Illinois.

Article sources

  1. Maclean’s. "High demand for financial planners ensures long-term Security, https://www.macleans.ca/sponsored/high-demand-for-financial-planners-ensures-long-term-job-security/." Accessed April 23, 2024.

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