Every financial planner dreams of landing that billionaire client, the whale that makes all your studying, all your time in the trenches, pay off in one fantastically lucrative account.
If you live in Ohio, that means you had better plant yourself in Cleveland to go fishing for that big payoff, because that’s where the Lerner family lives.
The three survivors of billionaire banker Al Lerner, founder of MBNA (itself a legend in the finance community), all remain in the Cleveland area today and are ranked on the Forbes list of billionaires for 2019. They aren’t your only options; other entries live near Columbus and Dayton, but Cleveland represents the single greatest concentration of billionaire wealth in the state.
Of course, if you don’t happen to land the Lerners, don’t worry… according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average 2019 salary for personal financial advisors in Ohio is $106,800, so you’re not going to go hungry. There are more than 7,000 individuals working in that capacity in the state today, and according to the state Department of Job and Family Services, that number is growing: the department expects almost 3 percent growth in the field by 2021, resulting in some 750 job openings per year.
Those jobs involve everything from educational fund planning for new families to retirement and trust establishment for the aging Baby Boomer generation. Ohio has plenty of those folks, too; according to 2019 Census Bureau estimates, the state has a full percentage point greater proportion of citizens over the age of 65 than the United States as a whole.
That offers great opportunity to financial planners with the right training and acumen to advise seniors on their investments and wealth management. All you need to get started is a degree.
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Ohio
You’ll need the degree because clients and employers alike in Ohio will be looking hard at your educational qualifications before they will sign you up to take on any kind of fiduciary responsibility for them. Financial matters today are not for amateurs or learning on the job; you need the right kind of education to establish your bona fides in areas like accounting, business, economics, and finance in order to build trust.
College credits are also a must when it comes to earning most of the important professional certifications that the industry relies on to establish qualifications and that clients count on to assess your skills.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
A four-year bachelor’s degree is the entry-level for most financial planning careers. Some of the most common majors for this career are:
- Bachelor in Financial Planning
- Bachelor in Financial Services
- Bachelor in Accounting
- Bachelor in Business
- Bachelor in Trust and Wealth Management
These liberal-arts programs offer not only a great deal of subject-matter specific education, but also all the additional coursework that make for well-rounded college graduates: classes in communications and English, history and social studies, history and literature. These things may not seem immediately applicable to financial planning, but they are part of giving you the critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities that everyone in planning will need.
In any case, you will want to make sure that you are selecting a CFP Board-Registered program for either your major or a minor you will pick up. That’s because the CFP Board offers one of the most important professional certifications in the business, the Certified Financial Planner credential… and they only offer it to individuals who have accumulated 15 credits in 9 specific subject areas. Those are credits you are guaranteed to receive in a Board-Registered program, prepping you for the rest of your career.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
If a bachelor’s is a minimum requirement to get started in financial planning, a master’s is where you go if you want to rise to the top of the profession. These two-year programs put together an advanced, subject-specific curriculum that will give you a strong practical and theoretical basis for understanding the most complex financial instruments and economic conditions. You take part of research projects and investigations that help you investigate and understand all the many moving parts in modern financial planning. You learn under the guidance of instructors who are experts in the field, and have the opportunity to enter into internships to put your new skills into practice.
It’s the kind of education you need to get that big corner office as a senior leader at your investment bank or management firm, or to impress those high-net-worth clients that will earn you the big bucks.
There are CFP Board-Registered programs available at this level as well, so if you are switching careers or otherwise didn’t get in the requisite credits at the undergrad level, you can pick them up here.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
At any level of study, you will need to pick a school or degree that holds the right specialty accreditation. That means being accredited by one of these three agencies:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
You probably don’t think much about accreditation usually, because almost every American university you would consider already holds a general accreditation for their institution. That means they have been evaluated by one of the major regional accrediting organizations in the country to establish their academic and administrative bona fides, guaranteeing students they are getting the kind of education they should expect with their degree.
But in specialized fields like business or accounting, you need an accrediting body that digs in a little bit deeper. These agencies look at the curriculum, instructors, and industry relationships that these programs offer, and ensure they line up with the needs and expectations of American businesses. That means you’ll be getting the kind of training you need to hit the ground running as a financial planner after graduation.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
Graduation from college is just step one in a much longer path of training and education you’ll probably go through during the course of your career. Whether it’s tests for certification exams or new concepts in finance, you’ll have to keep studying just to keep pace in financial planning.
And if you want to get ahead in the industry, you might opt for something like a fintech bootcamp.
Fintech is the new series of developments that are coming from a mash-up of high-performance, high-capacity computing and data analytics and the stream of relevant financial data that is coming out at an ever-increasing pace. Masters of fintech know what’s going on in the markets minutes or seconds before it happens; they see trends that others miss, and they master new instruments for trade and investing like cryptocurrencies while others are still scratching their heads.
A bootcamp is a fast-paced path to becoming one of those enlightened masters, and if you get through it, you’ll command top dollar in your industry. Although it’s an intensive course of study, it’s relatively inexpensive and you can be finished in a few weeks or months. You definitely won’t get bored; a series of hands-on projects using real-world data and realistic techniques keep coming at you, teaching concepts like:
- Advanced Excel analysis
- Python programming and financial library use
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
- Blockchain technologies like Ethereum and Solidity
- AI and machine learning in financial analysis
All of it is taught by instructors who are fresh from the front-lines of fintech, and undertaken together with your dedicated cohort of fellow students. Along the way, career services teams will give you a hand punching up your resume, building out a project portfolio, or even lining up interviews at the hottest new fintech startups.
While bootcamps were originally strictly a face-to-face, full-time endeavor, you can find a broad range of different formats available today, including such part-time, online programs as those offered by these major universities:
- Columbia Engineering FinTech Boot Camp
- Penn LPS FinTech Boot Camp
- The FinTech Boot Camp at UNC Charlotte
You can find an option that will work for you no matter what you current position or commitments are, which leaves you no excuse to not get ahead.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
A more traditional way to add to your value and credentials in the industry is through picking up professional certifications. You will find that many clients and almost all employers will be looking for these important little letters behind your name, verifying your knowledge and skills and speaking to your ethical standards in an industry where ethics are key. Some of the most popular are:
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) – Requires 27 semester credit hours in specified courses, although not a completed degree, plus 3 years experience
- Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) – Not required; however, must hold a CFA, plus 5 years experience
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Hold 4 years combined professional and/or university experience
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP) – Hold a bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years experience
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) – Have 75 hours personal financial planning education; also, hold a CPA, which requires a degree, plus 2 years experience
They each require passing a knowledge test, some accumulation of experience, and some college credits. The CFP requires not only the bachelor’s degree, but that you have earned 15 of those credits in their specific subject areas. If you somehow managed to get through your entire college career without meeting that requirement, if you’re coming in from a different field, for instance, you can still meet the qualifications by enrolling in a post-baccalaureate certificate course that is Board-Registered.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Ohio
All prospective investment adviser (IA) firm proprietors and representatives (IARs) in Ohio must become licensed through the Ohio Division of Securities by registering through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system. Although most investment advisers take the Series 65 Exam, under the Ohio Securities Act, Ohio Revised Code, a passing score on any one of the following exams, along with passing the SIE (Securities Industry Essentials) exam, will allow a license to be granted in the state:
- Investment company representative (IR), series 6 top off
- Direct participation programs representative (DR), series 22 top-off
- General securities principal, series 24
- Investment company and variable contracts principal, series 26
- Direct participation programs principal, series 39
- Uniform securities agent state law examination, series 63
- Uniform investment adviser law examination, series 65
- Uniform combined state law examination, series 66
You’ll more than likely start off as an investment advisor at one of the many major retail firms in the state, like JP Morgan Chase, Edelman Financial, or Charles Schwab. But it’s relatively easy to strike off on your own as a sole proprietor in an investment advising firm in Ohio, once you build up the expertise and the client list to support such a move.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Ohio
Securities salespersons in Ohio must be licensed by the Ohio Division of Securities as well as registered with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD). Although registered reps need to take the Series 7 exam so as to be able to work with a broad range of securities products, principals of broker-dealer firms can license their firms by obtaining a passing score on one or more of the following exams:
- Registered options principal (Series 4)
- General securities principal (Series 24)
- Investment company and variable contracts products principal (Series 26)
- Direct participation programs principal (Series 39)
- Municipal securities principal (Series 53)
- Uniform combined state law exam (Series 66)
Continuing education (CE) is required of registered securities representatives by NASAA and FINRA. The Regulatory Element requirement of CE obligates all registered representatives to take a refresher course after being licensed for 24 months, then every 36 months thereafter. The Firm Element requirement of CE obligates all firms to provide training to their registered representatives. This usually takes the form of in-house programs and includes topics that cover changes in product offerings, changes in sales procedures, and other modifications to the industry.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Ohio
The State of Ohio’s Department of Insurance licenses life insurance producers, some of whom may sell fixed annuities so as to offer financial planning services. Pre-licensing study is required in Ohio before you can take the exam, and can be met through a 20-hour classroom course or successful completion of a self-study option. You may also be eligible for a pre-licensing study waiver if you hold one of these industry certifications:
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
- Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS)
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Fellow of the Life Management Institute (FLMI)
- Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)
Twenty-four hours of continuing education is required biannually in order to maintain a life insurance producer’s license in the state, three hours of which must be in ethics.
If a licensed life insurance producer in Ohio wishes to sell variable annuities, securities licensure through the Ohio Division of Securities and registration with FINRA is also required. This means passing scores on the Series 6 examination must be obtained. Continuing education requirements maintained by both Ohio’s Department of Insurance and FINRA must be upheld in order to maintain a variable annuity license.