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The perfect job for savvy number crunchers
Dipta Joshi
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November 19, 2007

As the Indian financial markets mature, more options are going to be available for the potential investor. To catch your attention as well as money, different kinds of market participants aggressively sell you their wares.

For instance, it is common to get a call from a telemarketer who will sell unit linked insurance plans, as a mutual fund which protects your principal. And when you tell him (if you have the expertise) that mutual funds are not allowed to guarantee returns, he will be completely flummoxed. Imagine the plight of the investors who do not posses the basic know-how of such things.

With the entry of products like Ulips, gold exchange traded funds, structured products and funds of funds, it is a rather confusing scenario for the potential investor. However, while all these developments have been happening in the financial industry, there are also a small group of people who are entering this market with the expertise to manage your funds, after taking into account your needs and financial goals. Welcome to the world of certified financial planners.

Better known as CFPs, these professionals take a holistic view of your financial needs and then, prescribe a comprehensive financial plan that includes insurance needs, investment needs, retiring loans and others.

A CFP however, should not be confused with insurance agents and mutual fund advisors who double up as financial consultants.

"Agents will view a client's needs and suggest solutions from the company's viewpoint while a CFP hedges out the best options for his clients and suggests solutions," says Lovaii Navlakhi, managing director, International Money Matters.

According to the Financial Planning Standard Board, India (FPSB, India) which awards the CFP certification in India, there are only 400 practicing CFPs as of today. This number is likely to go to 7,000 in the next few years depending on the ones who are currently enrolled with the FPSB.

Ranjeet Mudholkar, CEO, FPSB, "Research on Indian household investments have shown that even as recently as three-four years ago, about 6.7 million households earning over Rs 15,000 per month had no investments. Considering that even if one CFP could handle 50-60 clients, there is a huge market waiting to be tapped out there."

So how does one become a CFP? For starters, you need at least three years working experience before you are awarded the certificate. "A CFP is dealing with other people's personal finance. So, it is important to ensure he is adept at constructing a viable plan for his clients," adds Mudholkar.

However, you can start with the course as an undergraduate and even do it online through distance learning or taking tutorials at any of the 17 FPSB approved education providers. The entire course costs Rs 20,000.

The course includes six modules that include insurance and risk management, retirement planning, investment planning, tax and estate planning.

Students need to clear four of the five modules besides a final advance financial planning exam. Considering there are six examinations in a year and students are allowed to appear in any two at one time, it is possible to finish the course within a year itself.

Also, those interested in specialising in just one module rather than doing the whole course can begin their career as an associate financial planner in their chosen module. Finance professionals like chartered accountants and management graduates who are already involved in the field of wealth management for at least three years but face time constraints to appear for all the exams have the option of directly appearing for the advance financial planning examination after qualifying for it.

There are a large number of growing opportunities for financial planners. According to industry estimates, a new entrant can earn between Rs 180,000 to Rs 250,000 a year. This bracket could move up by 25-30 per cent once he or she has done the course. With global firms too coming in, there have been cases where even freshers have started their careers with salaries of Rs 500,000 a year.

It is important that you have a liking for numbers to enjoy this money game. Remember, there are too many people working hard to earn their money.

It is time someone made their money work for them.

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