Becoming a Financial Planner in Tennessee

Financial planners can feel some pride that the state of Tennessee ranks first in the nation in financial stability according to U.S. News and World Reporters in 2018. That’s the sort of priority that citizens in the Volunteer State put on fiscal matters, both in terms of their government and their personal finances.

You can find that reflected in Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projections for the overall employment prospects for personal financial advisors as well. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of advisors employed in the state is expected to jump by 4.6 percent, a little more than the national average. Insurance sales agents, a closely related job, will go up by more than 6 percent in the same period.

So you know that your services here will be in demand, but what sort of services are those? For many in the state, part of the great Baby Boom heading swiftly toward retirement age, it means stabilizing their investment portfolios and setting up reliable income streams for after they leave the workforce, and structuring trusts and other estate-management tools to ensure benefits for their survivors.

For younger families, it means educational savings plans, addressing the high costs of college today by developing tax-sheltered investments that will pay for college for their children someday. Or it can mean putting together life insurance and other protections against unfortunate events that can come upon people at any phase of life. Or devising investment and income-growth opportunities to make the most out of their biggest earning years.

All kinds of different opportunities are on the table for financial advisors with ambition and the right kind of preparation to take a shot at them.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Tennessee

The biggest kind of preparation you will need will be in the department of formal education. Once upon a time, college was not necessarily a must-have for aspiring financial planners… with the right wit and drive, you could show up and get a job in the mailroom and work your way up the ladder to almost any height at a major bank or financial advising firm.

Today, they don’t even have mailrooms anymore, and they sure don’t spend much time looking at candidates who don’t at least hold a bachelor’s degree from a reputable college. The same is true for potential clients, who are going to want to see that sheepskin on your wall before they even think about signing over some percentage of their assets for you to manage. So, buckle up and get ready to buckle down in school for at least four years before you embark on your career path.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

Those first four years of school will probably be in a bachelor’s program, which most people consider to be about the bare minimum for any kind of professional advising career. You can explore majors in areas such as:

  • Bachelor in Financial Planning
  • Bachelor in Financial Services
  • Bachelor in Accounting
  • Bachelor in Business
  • Bachelor in Trust and Wealth Management

But with the right kind of electives or suitable minors, you can turn almost any bachelor’s degree into gold as a financial advisor. The combination of domain-specific knowledge and general liberal arts courses will turn you into a capable graduate who can not only analyze and develop investing approaches for clients, but also communicate with them clearly and think critically about their needs and situation.

Whatever path you take, you will want to make sure it includes a CFP Board-Registeredprogram as either your major or a minor. That’s because the CFP Board is the organization behind the coveted Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification, one of the most important in the business. And in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, it requires 15 credits of education in 9 specific subject areas. Those are all covered in Board-Registered programs, but may not be in others.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

A lot of financial planners aren’t satisfied with stopping at the undergraduate degree level. If you really want to get to the top of the industry, you need more than just the basic skillset. You probably want an advanced master’s degree in one of the core areas of the field.

Master’s are available in all the same areas as bachelor’s degrees, but with only two years to study, you’ll find they are much more concentrated. You will go through the most advanced theories in the field, learning through not only studying under professors and through reading assignments, but also by going through internships where you study how things are done on the job, and taking on independent research assignments to advance your own theories and ideas.

Not only does it offer in-depth education in your specialty area, but you can also find CFP Board-Registered programs at the master’s level, which allows you to qualify for a CFP even if you are transitioning in from another field and didn’t cover the subjects at the undergrad level.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

At both the graduate and undergraduate levels, attending a fully accredited program is important for your career prospects. While almost every American university you have ever heard of already holds a suitable general accreditation, attesting to their basic academic and administrative qualities, for business and accounting programs you need to go one step deeper. That means finding programs or schools that hold an accreditation from one of these three agencies:

Through close ties to the American business community, they are able to evaluate programs at a more specific level than general accreditors, ensuring that elements like the curriculum being taught, the instructors being hired, and the internships and other connections being used all meet the kind of standards that employers currently demand in business and accounting graduates.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

A fintech bootcamp is an entirely different, but equally valuable, sort of education that you can explore once you get your college degree under your belt. You probably won’t have learned much about fintech in your degree program; it’s a field that is still fresh and constantly evolving, a moving target for schools that teach out of textbooks and only slowly update their curriculums.

Bootcamps don’t have any of those restrictions, and use an entirely different approach to present the most cutting-edge material available. With instructors drawn straight from the field, a bootcamp will put you and your fellow students  through a series of challenging, hands-on projects that will develop your skills in areas such as:

  • Advanced Excel analysis
  • Python programming and financial library use
  • AI and machine learning analysis of financial data
  • Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies
  • Ethereum and Solidity smart contract use

It’s fast-paced stuff that gets crammed into weeks or months but offers entirely practical skills that you can put to use on day one after graduation.

Bootcamps were once only offered in-person and in full-time formats, and usually by private organizations, but today it’s becoming more common to find colleges that offer them in both online and part-time formats, like the Vanderbilt University FinTech Boot Camp.

The advantage to university-led bootcamps is that they come with highly professional instructors, and often access to advanced career services teams, who are skilled at developing your interviewing techniques, assisting you in resume and portfolio polishing, and getting the attention of the kind of major employers you might want to go to work for. Whether it’s a new job you have in mind or advancement in your current position, a bootcamp can launch you in the right direction.

Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner

Another sort of key qualification that you’ll want to obtain after a few years in the industry is a professional certification. The CFP is one, and one of the most important, but there are a number of others, focused on other specialty areas that you might consider:

  • 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

Like the CFP, each involves passing an exam to demonstrate your knowledge, accumulating some college credits, building up some experience, and having a clean ethical record behind you. It all helps assure employers and clients that you have the right skills and understanding to be trusted with valuable assets.

The stringent CFP Board requirements can be met through a Board-Registered certificate program if you happened to not get them out of the way during your earlier forays into higher education.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Securities Division is charged with registering investment adviser firms and the representatives of these firms, who are commonly referred to in Tennessee as investment adviser representatives (IAR). Registration for state and federal level investment adviser firms, as well as their representatives, is done through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository). One of the following criteria must be met before registration will be granted to IARs:

  • Passing score on the Uniform Investment Adviser Law exam (Series 65)
  • Passing scores on both of these exams:
    • General Securities Representative (Series 7)
    • Uniform Combined State Law (Series 66)
  • Have been registered as an RA (registered adviser) or IAR in any other state during the preceding 24 months
  • Hold one of these professional designations:
    • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
    • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
    • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
    • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
    • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Globally, nationally, and regionally recognized investment advisory firms are located across the state of Tennessee. You are very likely to start off your career at a place like Waddell & Reed, Edward Jones, or U.S. Bank. But you also have the option after a few years of experience to aim for smaller, boutique or regional firms, or even to strike off on your own and go for the big bucks as an independent advisor.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Tennessee

Broker-dealer agents must register with the Tennessee Securities Division as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through the FINRA Central Registration Depository (CRD). Passing either the Series 63 or Series 66 state examinations along with a securities license exam pertaining to the sponsoring broker-dealer’s product line (such as Series 6 or Series 7) is also required prior to registration.

Continuing education ordered by NASAA and FINRA for registered reps is comprised of two elements: a Regulatory Element and a Firm Element. The Regulatory Element, taken after 24 months of service as an agent and then every 36 months thereafter, is a refresher course designed to keep agents current on regulatory changes in the industry. The Firm Element training is provided yearly by BD firms and is designed to keep agents up-to-date on changes in the industry that influence sales practices and the investment/financial products they sell.

How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Tennessee

The Tennessee Insurance Division of the Department of Commerce regulates life insurance producers by maintaining strict licensing standards required for them to solicit clients in the state. Many life insurance producers sell fixed annuities, and market themselves as financial planners. In order to be eligible to take the life insurance licensing exam in Tennessee, prospective producers must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a resident of Tennessee
  • Be trustworthy, financially responsible, competent and have a good reputation in business
  • Complete a pre-licensing education course 20 hours in duration (approved providers may be found through PearsonVUE)
  • Complete a fingerprint background check

After fulfilling these requirements, aspiring insurance producers may sit for the life insurance licensing exam, also offered through PearsonVUE. To maintain a license, continuing education requirements of 24 hours every two years must be met.

If licensed life insurance producers want to sell variable contracts in Tennessee they must attain a securities license. No additional pre-licensing education applies to getting a variable contracts license; however, in addition to passing the state’s insurance licensing exam, they must pass the FINRA Series 6 or Series 7 Exams, as well as the Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam.