Pensions Adviser/Manager

The Job and What's Involved

Pensions advisers and managers work with individuals and organisations when choosing and running pensions schemes. They advise individuals on how to make financial plans for their retirement and advise organisations on pension schemes for their employees.

Personal pensions advisers work mainly with individuals. They find out about the client's current financial situation and future plans and recommend the most appropriate plan. They may also advise people if their personal circumstances change, for example after divorce, redundancy, bereavement or ill health. Typical tasks include:

  • Carrying out financial forecasts and applying personal tax allowances.
  • Explaining the merits and risks of individual schemes.
  • Explaining legal changes in pension rules.
  • Advising on the range of pensions, investment options and transfers.
  • Adjusting existing pension schemes if circumstances change.

Pension scheme advisers work mainly with businesses and other organisations, either as in-house advisers or as consultants for organisations not large enough to make their own provision. They help to create the right package to suit the employer, the workforce and the budgets. Their responsibilities include:

  • Liasing with employers and investment managers about the performance of company schemes.
  • Negotiating with other professionals, including trade union officials and lawyers.
  • Calculating the value of pension funds and making sure regular statements are issued.
  • Answering enquiries from pension scheme managers.

Pensions managers oversee and train a team of advisers and administrators. They work with client organisations and are usually responsible for making sure that schemes operate effectively and meet the required industry standards. Their duties include:

  • Contributing to annual and financial reports.
  • Overseeing the development of publicity materials and websites for scheme members.
  • Responding to more complex or sensitive enquiries.
  • Keeping up to date with changes in financial issues.

Pensions advisers and managers usually work normal office hours, Monday to Friday. Personal pensions advisers may work irregular hours to fit around clients who want evening or weekend appointments. Part-time and flexible working are possible.

The work is mainly office based, but advisers and managers travel to see clients and businesses, which may involve overnight stays away from home. Personal pensions advisers often work from home but keep in touch with a central office.

Smart dress is required. A driving licence could be an advantage.

Starting salaries may be around £18,000 to £25,000 a year. Experienced advisers may earn £30,000 to £45,000.

Pensions managers or consultants with large firms may earn from £45,000 to £85,000 or more.

Some advisers may receive performance-related pay and bonuses. Other benefits may include low-rate mortgages, medical insurance and life and pension cover.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Pensions advisers and managers work throughout the UK. Major employers include:

- Banks
- Building societies
- Insurance companies
- Large industrial and commercial companies
- Large public sector pensions providers
- Specialist pension consultancies
- Independent financial adviser firms

There are also opportunities with actuarial firms, accountants and solicitors. In addition, many pensions advisers are self-employed.

The number of pensions advisers and managers has increased in recent years. Vacancies may be advertised in local and national newspapers and in publications such as Financial Adviser, Money Management, Pensions World and PMI News. They may also be advertised on company and specialist recruitment agency websites such as www.pensioncareers.co.uk.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications for entry to this work and there are several routes to becoming a pensions adviser:

Graduate Training Scheme. Some employers have training schemes for entrants with a BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND), foundation degree or degree. Relevant subjects include finance, business studies and economics. As a guide, minimum requirements for entry onto a foundation degree or Higher National Diploma course are normally one A level and three to four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent; for a degree course, the minimum requirements are normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually to include English and maths, or equivalent such as the Advanced Diploma in business, administration and finance. Check with individual institutions as entry requirements vary. Entry to graduate training schemes is competitive.

Progression from Customer Adviser or Pensions Administrator. Experienced customer advisers or pensions administrators in organisations such as banks, building societies, insurance companies and pension consultancies may be considered for training as pensions advisers. They may be expected to have an approved qualification. Examples include the ifs School of Finance Certificate for Financial Advisers, The Chartered Insurance Institute's (CII) Certificate in Financial Planning and the Pensions Management Institute's Retirement Provision Certificate or Qualification in Pensions Administration.

Apprenticeship entry. There is an Advanced Apprenticeship in providing financial services, with a pathway in pensions advice. There are no set entry qualifications, although applicants are advised to have at least two GCSE's (A*-C) including maths and English. The Diploma in business, administration and finance may be relevant for this route. Advanced Apprenticeships lead to NVQ Level 3 in retail financial services and either the ifs Certificate for Financial Advisers or the CII's Certificate in Financial Planning

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Career change. A number of pensions advisers enter this work from other financial services areas, such as insurance, banking, investment, accounting or financial planning. Some enter with a sales background.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Employers provide training in pension products and computer systems. Personal pensions advisers tend to study for qualifications such as:

  • The CII Certificate and Diploma in Financial Planning or Certificate in Life and Pensions
  • The ifs Certificate for Financial Advisers.

At present, personal pensions advisers must have a professional qualification at Level 3. By the end of 2012, however, they must be qualified to Level 4. New Level 4 qualifications are being developed, but professional bodies currently offering approved qualifications at this level include the CII and ifs.

Pension scheme advisers and managers tend to work towards Pensions Management Institute (PMI) qualifications, such as the Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important for advisers and managers, as they must keep up to date with changes in regulations and products.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A pensions adviser or manager should:

  • Have good numerical skills.
  • Have good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Be able to work with a wide range of people.
  • Respect confidentiality.
  • Be able to explain complex information simply and clearly.
  • Have strong IT skills
  • Be skilled in research and analysis.
  • Be attentive to detail.
  • Be able to give impartial, unbiased advice.
  • Understand employment law, taxation, accounts and statistics.

Your Long Term Prospects

An experienced pensions adviser may become a pensions manager. Prospects may be improved by moving to larger organisations.

Many experienced pensions advisers and managers become self-employed. Some move into other financial advice areas, advising clients on all aspects of financial planning and employee benefits.

Get Further Information

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII),
42-48 High Road, South Woodford,
London E18 2JP
Tel: 020 8989 8464
Websites: www.cii.co.uk

Financial Services Skills Council,
51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Website: www.fssc.org.uk

ifs School of Finance, ifs House, 4-9 Burgate Lane,
Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 818609
Website: www.ifslearning.ac.uk

Institute of Financial Planning (IFP),
Whitefriars Centre, Lewins Mead,
Bristol BS1 2NT
Tel: 0117 945 2470
Website: www.financialplanning.org.uk

Pensions Management Institute (PMI),
PMI House, 4-10 Artillery Lane,
London E1 7LS
Tel: 020 7247 1452
Website: www.pensions-pmi.org.uk

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