I started at UBS Wealth Management in London as a financial planning administrator in December 2015 after obtaining a BSc in business economics and French at the University of Cardiff. I spent my first year gaining experience in the department before beginning the diploma in regulated financial planning with the support of UBS. I passed my first module, R05 Financial Protection, in March 2017 studying outside of working hours.
In May 2017, UBS gave me a fantastic opportunity by enrolling me on the Personal Finance Society's (PFS) new Aspire Financial Adviser Apprenticeship Programme. This offers a structured and supported learning programme that enables companies to develop talent from the classroom to the boardroom.
UBS has offered apprenticeships for many years in Switzerland aimed at school leavers. In 2014 this was extended to UBS Wealth Management UK.
In April 2017, the UK apprenticeship funding system changed. This change offered existing employees, such as myself, the opportunity to join an apprenticeship scheme, fully funded by the UBS levy. I am very fortunate to work for such a large company that actively encourages the development of its employees, and therefore was enrolled among the first cohort in London, where places were limited.
The PFS Aspire programme for financial advisers covers the three main topics needed in this profession: knowledge, skills and behaviours. Support is provided though weekly exam preparation and soft skill workshops. Once completed, apprentices will be Level 4 qualified, having also completed two forms of end-point assessments designed to test knowledge in the three keys areas. This allows successful apprentices to become well rounded financial advisers with the relevant skill sets to succeed in the industry. The programme also provides a great networking environment, which has allowed me to meet other professionals across the UK from within the industry, including those operating from family run IFAs up to large corporate firms.
Having started the course in May, I was already half way through studying independently for my R01 financial services regulation and ethics exam, which meant I was not in line with the normal running of the course curriculum dates. Despite this, the course lecturer, Adam Owen, was extremely accommodating, providing one-to-one tuition to help me prepare for the upcoming exam. This included webinar sessions at the weekends and in the mornings before business hours, to ensure I was 100% confident when taking the exam. This is demonstrative of the support that is provided throughout by the tutors to help achieve a strong pass in the exams.
Each apprentice has their own personal tutor, who helps develop their own tailored learning plan. On a monthly basis we meet to make sure I am on track, and address any issues I may have, which has been pivotal to ensuring I get the most out of the course.
There is a minimum requirement to be Level 4 qualified to become a financial planner. However, UBS has a minimum Level 6 requirement, with Level 4 allowing you to become a paraplanner. Following my current course I will be at this level, with the intention of continuing my studies and completing the advanced financial planning diploma, ultimately attaining chartered status in the future. The course and the tutors, combined with the day-to-day job support from UBS, have been fantastic at helping build the platform to achieve this, and I would highly recommend the PFS Aspire programme to anyone interested in advice.
Ciara Oliver, financial planning administrator, UBS