Even for those who have an MBA, obtaining a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification can complement a rewarding career in business and financial planning. Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, a leading advocate for financial literacy, shared her thoughts on the versatility and value of CFP® certification; the attributes that make for an effective financial planner; and career path options. You are a strong advocate for female leadership in the financial planning industry. Why is this so important to you? For a couple of reasons. First, I’ve been passionate about helping women achieve economic parity for decades, and a big part of that equality involves achieving professional success. And second, many women (younger women in particular) want to work with a female financial advisor. So to me, attracting more women to the traditionally male-dominated financial planning industry is a win-win: A win for the women who choose to pursue a very rewarding career path, and a win for the female clients who will be able to work with a female financial advisor. Why is financial planning a good career for women? How does this path offer opportunity for career advancement and satisfaction? In all honesty, I believe that financial planning is a great career for men and women alike, but unfortunately women have been underrepresented. The qualities that make for a great financial planner are often misunderstood. It’s a myth that the profession is all about sales or a deep focus on mathematics. To my mind, it’s much more important to have great relationship and communication skills. You have to be able to listen to your clients, and then take pride (and pleasure) in helping them work toward their goals. At the end of the day, being a financial advisor or planner is much more of a people job than a numbers job. What sorts of career paths exist for women who have a CFP® certification? One of the best things about the CFP® certification is that you can use it in so many ways. Of course we first think of it as a path to becoming a registered investment advisor or a financial consultant, but the education can also prepare a person to become a stronger financial writer, educator, marketer – or even to run a corporate foundation (as I do). I honestly believe that the skills and perspective that you achieve by obtaining a CFP® certification can lead to a number of interesting and worthwhile career paths. What are the qualities/characteristics of a successful financial planner? Does one need to be a “financial genius” to be successful? As I mentioned above, absolutely not. Yes, you need to master the basic, proven financial principles of budgeting, saving, borrowing, tax planning, estate planning and investing -- but there is at least an equal need for strong relationship skills. All of the theory in the world is for naught if your client doesn’t implement your recommendations. According to the CFP® Board, only 23% of CFP® professionals are women. Why do you think this is the case? There are several reasons. The CFP® Board’s Women’s Initiative (WIN), under the direction of its board-chartered WIN Council, has researched this topic extensively and released a white paper that reached the following conclusions: We need more female role models. As the white paper points out, we can’t be what we can’t see. As more women enter the field, we need to mentor and reach out to other young women or even older women who are contemplating a career change. We need to understand that being a financial advisor is about much more than math and the stock market. It’s perhaps even more importantly about helping our clients set and achieve their goals. Gender bias is unfortunately alive and well. Although this is changing, many people still believe that women are not suited to a career in finance. Based on the statistics (23%), some people might conclude that financial planning is not a “female-friendly” career path. What do you say to that? Nonsense! What is the value of a CFP® certification? What have you been able to accomplish with it that you might not without it? Probably the most important lesson I’ve taken to heart is the need to view our finances holistically. We definitely need to pay attention to the details, but also need to step back and take a broad view – and make sure that all of the pieces of our financial lives (spending, saving, insurance coverage, tax planning, college planning and estate planning as well as investing and retirement planning) are working well together. Second, the CFP® certification is the gold standard in the industry, and for good reason. Anyone who has been through the education understands how rigorous it is, and why it carries such credibility. And finally, being a CFP® professional involves substantial continuing education. When a client works with a CFP® professional, they can be assured that their advisor is up to date. And from the advisor’s perspective, it’s a built-in way to stay fresh. For women who are pursuing MBAs, they may feel that it is sufficient. What is the added value of the CFP® certification for women who also hold an MBA? A CFP® certification and an MBA degree are both valuable, but very different. The skills and education that you receive from each can work well together, especially if you want to run your own office. In my case, I already had an MBA in marketing, but wanted to obtain a CFP® certification so that I could better serve peoples’ financial needs and help them reach their goals. What advice do you have for young women who may be interested in pursuing a CFP® certification? I believe that a CFP® certification can lead to a variety of fulfilling career choices. The financial services industry needs more qualified and energetic young women. Come join us! What advice do you have for young women about the importance of investing and managing their own finances? In a word, it’s essential. We all need to learn to manage our own finances in order to build a financially secure future – and that goes for men, too. Of course it’s wonderful to be in a supportive relationship, but we also need to stand on our own, and build our own futures. About the CFP® Board Center for Financial Planning: The CFP Board Center for Financial Planning seeks to create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession so that every American has access to competent and ethical financial planning advice. The Center brings together CFP® professionals, firms, educators, researchers and experts to address profession-wide challenges in the areas of diversity and workforce development, and to build an academic home that offers opportunities for conducting and publishing new research that adds to the financial planning body of knowledge. More about the Center and its initiatives can be found at CenterforFinancialPlanning.org.