What Is a Finance Consultant? (Including Duties and Skills)
Updated December 9, 2022
The financial services industry can provide a lot of career opportunities, depending on your level of education, interest and skill set. Finance consulting is just one area of finance you might consider if you want to help others with their financial situation. If you're interested in becoming a finance consultant, it's important to understand what the position involves, including the necessary skills and educational requirements. In this article, we discuss what a finance consultant is, explain what they do, review the skills that may be useful in this field and list the primary differences between financial consultants and financial advisers.
What is a finance consultant?
A finance consultant is a professional who works with clients to help them better understand their financial position. As a finance consultant, you may help your clients fulfill a variety of needs, depending on your level of education, background experience and certifications. Consultants may work for a large firm or as an independent contractor that a client hires. Clients can range from individuals who desire assistance with filling out their annual tax forms to corporations interested in increasing value to their shareholders and improving business efficiencies by finding new ways to save money.
Related: Learn About Being a Consultant
What does a finance consultant do?
Finance consultants assist clients in meeting their financial goals by reviewing their assets, debts, income and expenses. They may also directly manage their clients' investments and offer them personalized advice to help them understand how to best manage their investments. For example, if a client wants to save more money for retirement, a finance consultant can help them choose investments to provide them with a more secure source of retirement savings and answer any questions they may have.
Finance consultants may also offer their clients more specialized advice in their area of expertise, such as tax planning, estate planning or insurance. Consultants who focus on assisting companies often have specialties of their own, such as mergers and acquisitions. Here are the common types of finance consultants available:
Robo-advisers: This type of consultant gathers information about a client online and automatically makes investment decisions for that client. Some may also offer financial planning tools.
Online finance consultant: Similar to a robo-adviser, this human consultant manages a client's portfolio for them, but also may offer clients financial advice and more comprehensive investment management in exchange for a fee.
In-person finance consultants: An in-person consultant generally offers a wide range of financial planning tools, strategies and services to clients. They often help to educate their clients who are in the process of making a significant financial decision like buying a house or setting up a college fund.
Related: Your Guide to Careers in Finance
What education does a finance consultant need?
Most firms specializing in finance consulting require candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Larger firms and investment banks may also require consultants to continue their education and obtain a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration in finance. Taking courses in finance, mathematics, risk planning, investments and business leadership may be useful for an aspiring finance consultant. While many consultants have a variety of backgrounds, here are a few majors that can prepare you to enter a career in financial consulting:
While studying finance, students typically learn a variety of methods relating to the management of money and stocks. Students become familiar with financial topics on the personal, corporate and global levels. In addition, they develop insight into how to utilize various financial instruments for money management and what the best practices are for investing in the stock and bond markets, which is important for working in the financial consulting industry.
An economics degree with courses in finance can provide a strong foundation for an aspiring finance consultant, with students learning a variety of macroeconomic and microeconomic concepts affecting business processes and markets. Students also learn how monetary and fiscal policies can affect financial management. This can be useful for a consultant who's helping their client during a financial market cycle.
Students studying statistics often learn the basics of financial mathematics, including statistical and computational techniques. Students also develop skills in quantitative reasoning and probability. This can be a useful major for an aspiring financial consultant because the position often involves understanding how statistics affect pricing and the role they have in hedging securities in the financial markets.
Though financial consulting involves understanding business and investing concepts, communications and analytical skills are also important because consultants frequently work with others. Having a liberal arts degree can help a consultant more effectively communicate with a variety of different clients. Liberal arts students often develop strong reasoning, critical thinking and analytical skills, which are all important when putting together a financial plan for a client.
Where do financial consultants work?
Financial consultants may work within the corporate finance division of a business, otherwise known as the part of the business that focuses on how the corporation funds its operations, manages its investments and makes accounting decisions. Other consultants may work independently or within a consulting firm. Here are a few additional examples of organizations that often employ finance consultants:
Financial investment firms
Securities and commodity brokers
Small consulting companies
Small investment advisery firms
Skills for financial consulting
To be a successful finance consultant, it's important to have a combination of soft skills and technical skills, in addition to general knowledge of how the financial industry operates. Soft skills are important when building a relationship with a client, while technical skills are important when helping a client manage their wealth. Consider the following skills financial consultants often use in their position:
These skills involve effectively communicating and interacting with others. Interpersonal skills are especially important when managing relationships with both clients and staff inside a firm. Having a sensitivity to each client's needs and creating a strong rapport with them is important for establishing loyalty with clients.
Much of being a finance consultant involves listening to clients to determine their financial position, including their needs and goals. The ability to interpret what a client wants is important for developing an effective investment strategy. Removing any distractions and creating more meaningful conversations with a client by relaying what they've said back to them can make them feel more comfortable and improve trust.
These skills often involve the ability to consider a range of information, such as the current economic trends, regulatory changes, changes in economic policy and a client's tolerance for risk. These are all important when developing an effective investment strategy. Financial consultants frequently solve problems and collect and analyze information, so having strong analytical skills can help them find more effective solutions and make decisions.
Finance consultants often work with numbers, so understanding how to use math to perform calculations and analyze a variety of financial data can be useful when determining a financial strategy. Having a basic understanding of mental math can also help save time when preparing financial documents for a client. In addition, understanding statistics may make it easier to explain things to a client, such as the projected growth of their investments.
Financial consultants vs. financial advisers
While financial consultants and advisers often have similar responsibilities in analyzing the finances of a client and helping them to create a plan to reach their future goals, there are a few important differences to consider between the two:
Financial consultants often work independently or through a third-party consulting firm. They focus on designing compensation plans for company executives and assisting companies with meeting their financial goals. In comparison, financial advisers often work directly for an asset manager or at an investment bank and focus on evaluating the overall financial health of a company. Advisers use the financial information from a company to make a decision about whether to buy or sell stock. Many finance consultants focus singularly on the buying and selling of investments, while advisers offer additional financial planning services.
Most financial consultants and advisers obtain a certified financial planner (CFP) designation, which involves passing an exam and possessing a certain level of education and experience in the industry. This certification ensures that the professional possesses the knowledge necessary to provide comprehensive financial planning to clients. As an alternative to earning a CFP, a financial consultant may instead opt for a chartered financial consultant (ChFC) designation. This certification has similar requirements to a CFP, such as the completion of specific education, but there's no exam requirement and there's often a requirement to take additional elective courses.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Since financial advisers offer clients additional financial planning services, they often have the same client for an extended period. In contrast, consultants may focus on a specific financial issue, often with a time constraint, so they may form short-term relationships with clients. Advisers often see their clients regularly, sometimes over many years, as they plan for the future and make life changes. Financial advisers are also often more likely to see their clients in person than a consultant.
While consultants and advisers both focus on long-term wealth-building for their clients, a consultant may take a more indirect approach and make decisions on behalf of their clients while maintaining their independence. For example, a consultant may only meet once with a client who wants to know what type of retirement account is most useful for them.
In comparison, an adviser is more likely to take a more comprehensive approach and research the overall financial position of their client before providing them with a strategy. They may meet less frequently than consultants but over longer periods. Since most advisers work for larger firms, they often sell additional financial planning products to clients to continue to help them achieve their goals.
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