Are you thinking about a career in financial consulting? If so, you’re probably wondering what it takes to be successful. Financial consultants may come with a range of educational backgrounds, experiences, credentials and personality traits, but there are some that tend to rise to the top. Here’s a look at what it takes to be a financial consultant.
Most financial consultants have at least a bachelor’s degree, typically in Finance, Accounting, Economics, or a related field. Many also possess an MBA or a master’s degree in one of those concentrations.
Is it possible to be successful as a financial consultant without a degree? Perhaps. Many professionals have taken their own paths to achievement. But companies tend to view a college degree as proof that you can perform research, apply critical thinking skills, collaborate with others, communicate your ideas, and generally complete a long-term, multi-faceted project. That’s why a college degree is a prerequisite in so many careers and certification programs.
Financial consultants need to be able to help their clients by assessing their financial situation, conducting risk analyses, developing and presenting strategies and monitoring results.
Although a degree program may touch on some of these, most financial consultants’ expertise in these areas comes from hands-on experience working for an accounting and advisory firm or in private industry. Your work history should provide hands-on experience with accounting software and statistical packages, good knowledge of fiscal policies, GAAP financial statements and SEC regulations.
Certifications tell potential clients that you’re well-qualified, take your position seriously, and stay on top of changes in the industry. In today’s world, the degree you earned 10 years ago may not be as relevant as it once was. Certification programs require their credential holders to take a certain number of continuing education hours each year, which helps ensure you stay up to date on current practices.
Financial consultants are expected to hold at least one certification. Which one you’ll need depends on your specialization, but a few widely-known ones are:
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement (CIPM)
Technical expertise isn’t the only requirement for becoming a financial consultant. Soft skills are also a crucial aspect of building relationships and earning trust with your clients. To become a financial consultant, you should possess the following:
A financial consultant works with a team, either their own or a client’s. You should be able to manage conflicts and inspire and influence others to work their way through change. Striking the right balance between being professional and being friendly and sociable with your clients is critical.
A financial consultant needs to be able to ask the right questions, have difficult conversations and communicate results. You should feel comfortable communicating with clients in writing and in person, be able to take and give instructions, and know how to listen.
You’ve probably met someone who walks into a room and attracts intense, positive attention. This ability is called executive presence, and it’s a blend of temperaments, competencies and soft skills that enable a leader to command the room and connect with others. To demonstrate executive presence, dress professionally, speak up, use strong and clear language, communicate with passion and energy, stand tall, make eye contact, offer a firm handshake and use an authoritative tone of voice.
It takes a lot to succeed in the consulting world. Your resume is important, but intangible qualities are what sets you apart. With a combination of education, experience, certifications and a commitment to building the soft skills mentioned above, you’ll have what it takes to be among the best of the best.
To get professional insight on consulting and to be connected to opportunities nationwide, reach out to our team at Parker + Lynch Consulting.