Australia: "Don't overlook the steps" in becoming an adviser

| 04 Apr 2023

Prioritising junior roles to apply theoretical knowledge into practicality is crucial to a financial adviser's career progression, says one adviser.

With 60% of the 192 candidates sitting February's advice exam doing so for the first time, these were likely to be new entrants to the industry on their Professional Year (PY).

However, those graduates considering an advice career have been recommended not to rush straight into their PY and take their time to learn the role.

Mr Mitchell Harrison, an associate adviser at LBW Business and Wealth Advisors, encouraged new entrants to view beginner positions as an opportunity for necessary growth instead of immediately applying for adviser roles once they had graduated. 

“A lot of the time, we’re so focused on the end goal of being an adviser that we overlook the steps [to get there],” the adviser said on the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) podcast. 

Mr Harrison discussed three key roles that new entrants should seek out: client service officer (CSO) or administrative support, followed by paraplanning, and then progressing to an adviser. 


Client service officer

“A CSO is the best place to start and is the most common for a reason,” he noted. 

Mr Harrison initially dreamed of becoming an adviser and completing his Professional Year (PY) directly after completing his studies. However, he ended up opting to delay and complete the PY some four years later. 

In hindsight, he said he valued the bridging roles where he could grow his industry skills instead of being “thrown in the deep end”.  

He felt being able to identify a clear career progression and exhibit passion and enthusiasm about their advice careers also helped set candidates apart from other entrants. 



Following a CSO role, working as a paraplanner was the next important position to step into.   “Paraplanning was a really good way to boost my technical skills,” Mr Harrison said. 

In particular, understanding key administrative duties as a paraplanner, such as writing statements of advice (SOAs) before meeting with clients was essential. 

Whilst a university degree strengthened Harrison’s theoretical knowledge, implementing his learnings practically in a firm was how he truly grew into the advice profession, he said. 


Working in smaller organisations

Mr Harrison additionally considered the benefits and challenges of working at smaller organisations compared to larger firms. 

“One of the drawbacks of working in a small- to medium-sized business is that you have the greater technical ability to learn, but the career progression is more vague and less rigid than [working in] a larger bank,” Mr Harrison reflected. 

Instead, an adviser working at a smaller firm needed to be more self-directed in seeking further career development. 

However, Mr Harrison noted that banks were less likely than smaller organisations to offer one-on-one support to paraplanners or administrative roles.


This is an article by Jasmine Siljic which appeared on Money Management.