Karen Archer

Financial Planner (Economics and Sociology, BA)

Karen Archer

Karen Archer graduated from the Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in sociology and economics at Laurier in 1993. Later, Karen also completed a minor in mathematics. After graduating, she began working as an IT trainer where she delivered workshops and technical training initiatives for employees to explain and teach how to use specific software. Gradually, Karen entered the software industry as a technical writer where she produced simpler technological information to help people understand how to use specific software. Being in the software industry for 17 years, Karen decided to use her wealth of experience to enter the financial planning industry and obtain a CFP designation. While you do not necessarily need a CFP to work in financial planning, Karen points out that it is the highest standard in the field and clients recognize it as a valid credential that signifies a high degree of financial knowledge and professionalism within the field.

In a nutshell, Karen helps clients with various areas of finance. This involves advising on different approaches to savings such as retirement and education-planning, effective tax-strategies (where clients are unaware of different investment pathways), and insurance products related to estate and retirement planning. Karen points out that every day is different as she works with a wide variety of clients who have different needs and different financial queries. It is for this reason that Karen follows what she refers to as a ‘fact-find process’ when she first meets a client. First, Karen collects a wide array of data for assessment. Following that process, she comes back with different recommendations based on mathematical and tax analysis. Karen also understands day-to-day spending plans of her clients from observing their income and expenditures. In addition, Karen helps people with mortgages to ensure that they are getting the right mortgage for their needs with the most flexibility.

Karen enjoys financial planning since it involves helping people, mathematical analysis and a lot of constant learning as it applies to finance, government programs and tax rules. To be successful in financial planning, she says it’s important to have a good rapport with clients and to genuinely be there for them. Relationship building is important as you spend a great deal of time in conversation understanding a client’s needs and concerns. In addition, Karen says being a life learner is integral in this industry as one must constantly stay on top of new government and tax rules and have continuing education credits. Karen also mentioned her job comes with flexible schedules since she is essentially self-employed.

According to Karen, the most important skills are mathematical, analytical and people skills to become successful as a financial planner. Being self-driven is one of the main qualities a financial planner should possess as it is an independent role. For example, taking initiative to prospect clients by getting involved in the community and telling people about your services. Moreover, financial planners need to be able to adapt to different client situations. Karen says the first five years in the career may be tough since many people already have financial planners; however, you need to showcase how you’re different amongst others. Karen believes, “your efforts will determine your rewards” in the financial planning industry.

Karen believes compassion, being extraverted and self-motivated are important personality traits. Financial planners must be compassionate because every client has different financial resources. Also, being motivated to introduce yourself to people and being able to “knock on business doors” to inform others what you’re doing is key to building a strong network to expand your client base. To gain experience toward this career goal, starting in a sales role would be beneficial to increase confidence in talking to other people, and handling rejection.

Many people in this career come from different disciplines and backgrounds, which is why there is no concrete “best” training route. However, mathematical savviness, people skills, and an economics background would be helpful. To obtain a CFP designation, required courses need to be completed plus three years of hands-on experience in the field of financial planning. Karen says working in a bank is a great starting point as it provides exposure to the financial industry.

Currently, there is no requirement to obtain a CFP designation to work in financial planning. However, it is becoming more and more recognized as a minimum requirement in the industry. The CFP designation shows a standard and a certain level of criteria has been met. This will ensure that clients receive the same level of consistency of advice from all financial planners.

To acquire finance related experience as a student, consider applying to a bank for summer work as there are many summer student employment opportunities. In addition, students can become involved in professional associations such as Advocis: The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, and attend chapter events that will help you to learn more about the industry and build a professional network.