Becoming a Financial Planner in Texas

As it turns out, even the money is bigger in Texas. According to Forbes, the $1.9 billion GDP in the Lone Star state for 2019 was the second biggest in the country. They rank the state second best in the nation for business, and put it at number one when it comes to growth prospects.

All that green sloshing around makes it an outsized market for financial services firms. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, jobs for brokers are set to explode in the run up to 2026, with an increase of more than 17%. And that pales compared to personal financial advisers, who will experience nearly 22% growth over that same period.

And as the tidal wave of Texans approaching retirement age hits land, it’s only growing the market for retirement, end of life and estate planning. With the massive wealth transfer that’s coming in the years ahead as the wealthiest generation in America’s history pass their assets on, the kind of growth we’re seeing in the industry during the lead-up is hardly surprising.

If that gives you a hit of motivation to get yourself on the road to becoming a financial planner, you want to be looking at where most of that wealth is concentrated – in Houston, Dallas and even Austin. All those wealthy people need super-savvy financial planners to help them manage their money and maintain the lifestyles they’re used to.

Get The Skills Required To Be a Financial Planner Through Education

Education is not optional when it comes to preparing yourself for a career in financial planning. It’s not rocket science, but it involves keeping track of almost as many numbers, and has far more rules and regulations. While it’s still possible to advance in the field without a college degree, it’s becoming quite rare, and the days are gone where you can get scooped up by a brokerage based on moxie alone and learn the ropes on the job.

Moreover, meeting the right people and making the right connections are vital in finance, and that happens more often in the halls of academia than on the links these days. Building networks is crucial, and you’re better off doing your elbow rubbing at well-respected schools packed with people moving in the same direction you are.

Bachelors Degrees for Financial Planners

A bachelor’s degree is considered the bare minimum for many financial planning positions, and it’s a requirement to earn the coveted Certified Financial Planner credential. The type of degree is not specified, however, so long as you have some way of satisfying the CFP Board’s requirement for specific coursework in 15 credits worth of training. The easiest way to make sure your bachelor’s program checks all the boxes for that 15 credits of coursework is to enroll in a CFP Board Registered degree.

You can find those in a variety of related fields, however, including:

  • Consumer and Family Financial Services
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Financial Planning

Masters Degrees and MBAs in Finance and Financial Planning

Master’s degrees are required for most of the really high-end positions in financial planning, whether in management or if you want to establish your own firm. It’s the people with the MBAs and master’s in finance that are calling the shots in all the upper-floor boardrooms in those Dallas high-rises.

That’s because those degrees put the polish on your previous experience and bachelor’s education, even if that was in a different field. In fact, some programs and firms love to have applicants with lower level degrees that didn’t come from the accounting and finance world, as a way to pull additional experience and diversity into the system. Master’s degrees are a great way to change the trajectory of your career if you decide to aim for financial planning after some time in another role.

A master’s program will give you the tools you need for that transition, or to build your current expertise in areas like options pricing, risk limitation and analysis, corporate valuation, reporting and regulatory requirements, and a whole lot more.

Beyond the basic credibility that a master’s confers, it also comes with additional, more specialized, more advanced training in specific aspects of finance and financial planning. You can even find master’s programs that are CFP Board-Registered if the coursework required for certification wasn’t covered in your bachelor’s program. The same is true for MBAs, which are available in a dizzying array of concentrations.

With a master’s under your belt, you’ll know the right people and have all the right tools to graduate into a position as an investment advisor representative with a top firm, or blaze your own trail as an independent adviser.

Accreditation is Important in Selecting Your College Degree Program

Whether you are aiming for a bachelor’s, a master’s, or MBA, specialty programmatic accreditation will be a key thing to look for in your selection. Specialty accreditors evaluate business and accounting programs on the basis of their resources, instructor-quality, curriculum, and overall academic prowess to ensure they produce graduates who meet industry expectations.

There are three specialty accreditors that fill this role in the United States:

Ensuring that your bachelor or master’s program has a stamp of approval from at least one of them isn’t required to make your way in the industry, but everyone will notice if you’re able to call a top quality school your alma mater.

Joining a FinTech Bootcamp for Technical Excellence in Financial Advising

Fintech bootcamps give you a path to practical skills training you can take completely separate from a conventional college education, or as a complement to your current degree.

Bootcamps are accelerated, innovative, and highly-focused programs that drill down into practical fintech concepts by way of hands-on projects to give you skills in coding, analysis, and advanced technological tools like blockchain and machine learning. It’s all designed to prepare you to leverage technology to grow client portfolios and pick the right positions.

Depending on the program, thy can last just a few days all the way up to a handful of weeks. They tend to be relatively low-cost, but available at a variety of skill levels to either fill in gaps in your previous training or to give you the initial training you need to get started in the field. They can be available either online or on-site.

Texas is blessed to have two excellent, college-backed fintech bootcamps to choose from:

Both are part-time, six-month programs that start you off with advanced Excel training and move you all the way up into rudimentary Python coding for financial data analysis. Along the way, you get training in advanced concepts including:

  • Algorithmic trading
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency
  • AWS and NoSQL data stores
  • Linear regression and time-series analysis

It’s a multi-disciplinary approach that boosts your skills far above the average in the financial planning world, and puts you at the forefront of the next big thing in the finance industry. And both programs come with extensive career preparation services, including resume polishing and interview prep, to help you land a job or promotion after you graduate.

Adding a Professional Certification to Your Qualification as a Financial Planner

In an industry as specialized as finance and financial planning, the reality is that you pick up a lot of your skills long after graduation. The degree tells employers and clients you got the basics; if you want to show everyone that you also got the chops to build on those basics and excel in the industry, you opt for a professional certification.

Each of these have some sort of higher education or real-world experience requirement:

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) from ACFS – Have 3 years experience, with 27 college semester credit hours in certain courses
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) from AICPA – A CPA (which requires college credits equivalent to a masters, as well as 2 years experience) and 75 additional hours of financial planning education
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) from the CFA Institute – At least 4 years of experience, either in college, on the job, or some combination of the two
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) from the Investment Advisor Association –Have a CFA, and an additional 5 years of experience
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) from the CFP Board – Earn a bachelor’s degree, with 3 years experience

Qualifying for the CFP also means taking at least 15 credits of certain required college courses that align with the CFP Board requirements. The easiest way to meet this requirement is to enroll in a degree program that is CFP Board Registered, but it’s also possible to find stand-alone certificate programs that fill the gap after graduation.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Texas

The Texas State Securities Board handles the registration and licensure of investment adviser (IA) firms and representatives (IAR) who work with clients in the state. Your application to become one of them will go through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Central Registration Depository (CRD) system, while the registrations of investment advisors (IAs) are processed through FINRA’s IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system.

Under the Texas Securities Act, all IARs must pass an examination on Texas Securities Law as well as an examination on general securities principles. The state securities law exam is given at the Austin office and other offices of the State Securities Board while other securities exams are administered through FINRA and NASAA.

Texas is home to the offices of many investment advisory firms of international, national and regional prominence – ViewPoint Bank in Plano; Goldman Sachs & Co. in Houston; Southwest Business Corporation in San Antonio; Sensus Financial in Dallas-Fort Worth; BBVA Compass in Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Laredo, San Juan, Brownsville, San Antonio and Austin; and First Global Capital Corporation in Dallas… and the list goes on. You’ll need the appropriate licensing to land a position at any of these firms.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Texas

Stockbrokers, otherwise known as securities sales agents or registered representatives, must register with the Texas State Securities Board and with the FINRA Central Registration Depository (CRD). You’ll have to pass an examination on state securities law, either the Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination or the Series 66 Uniform Combined State Law Exam.

An exam on general securities principles is also in the cards, such as the FINRA Series 1 (General Securities Exam), Series 2 (FINRA Non-Member General Securities Exam), or Series 7 (General Securities Representative Exam).

Other accepted exams are taken based on the type of securities reps will be selling. These exam options include:

  • Series 6 – Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Representative Examination
  • Series 11-Assistant Representative/Order Processing Examination
  • Series 22–Direct Participation Programs Representative Examination
  • Series 52–Municipal Securities Representative Examination
  • Series 62–Corporate Securities Representative Examination
  • Series 17, 37, 38, 47–General Securities Representative Examination
  • Series 79–Investment Banking Qualification Examination
  • Series 72–Government Securities Representative Examination

FINRA requires all securities agents to complete ongoing continuing education requirements. You’ll have to take a computer-based training program, known as the Regulatory Element, after 24 months of registration and then every 36 months after that, to stay current on changes in regulations in the securities industry. A firm-provided Firm Element offers training for securities agents on developments in the securities industry and changes in sales practices or products.

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

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is responsible for licensing life insurance producers, who may also sell fixed annuities as a part of their financial planning services. Pearson VUE handles insurance exams for Texas producers. Once licensed, producers must fulfill 30 hours of continuing education every 24 months to maintain licensure. Fifteen hours of that may be self-study. Two hours must be in ethics or consumer protection courses.

Licensed life insurance producers in Texas do not need a separate insurance license in order to be eligible to sell variable contracts (that is, variable life and/or variable annuities). However, they must have securities licensure, which means passing the Series 6 or Series 7 examinations. You’ll have to fulfill the ongoing continuing education requirements of both TDI and FINRA to maintain both licenses.