Darren Gao becomes one of the youngest individuals to pass the CII Diploma at just 19
After finishing sixth form in 2021, Darren Gao set out on his path to become a financial adviser and started the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. A little over a year later, he became one of the youngest people to complete the Diploma at just 19 years old. We asked Darren about his exam journey and future goals, and he offered some great advice for other candidates working towards the CII Diploma.
This article is correct as at 25 April 2023.
What made you decide financial advice was the career for you?
The world of finance has always intrigued me, I chose financial advice as a career as I find helping people achieve their goals very rewarding. I also enjoy keeping up to date with the continuously changing regulations and markets as well as the problem-solving that is required to help clients navigate complex situations.
Why did you choose the CII’s Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning?
I chose the CII Diploma because it covers a broad range of subjects related to the financial advice industry including pensions, taxation, investments, and regulations. From my research, it is highly recognised within the industry and would prepare me to handle complex financial planning scenarios. One aspect of the CII qualifications that particularly appealed to me was the flexibility as certain models are transferable as credits towards other courses within the CII as well as other professional bodies.
Did you find it easy to find a role at a company that would support you with your qualifications?
I was very lucky, I got in contact with some brilliant recruiters who were able to find a role in a company that matched what I was looking for fairly quickly.
What was your key to success in each of the Diploma exams from R01 through to R06?
One thing I have found very helpful is to take the time to understand concepts and not just memorise them for exams. I have found in doing this you retain much more of the information for longer. Once I had gone through the material I would then move on to using the mock papers and study aids provided by Brand Financial Training to further hone my understanding which was key to passing the exams.
What are your top 3 tips for other candidates working towards the CII Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning candidates?
- Ensure you manage your time properly, setting fixed time-bound goals and allocating fixed time towards the exam studies.
- Try getting through the book quickly and spending more time on doing mock papers ensuring you go over them to find and understand mistakes.
- Reach out to people who are more experienced for help with more complicated subjects.
Which of the CII Diploma exams did you find the easiest and why? (R01, R02, R03, R04, R05, and R06)
I particularly enjoyed R02. I find investments very interesting and it gave a very good high-level overview of the financial markets. I enjoyed the various calculations involved and I have found the knowledge gained was very applicable in real life and helped me to navigate the jargon in financial news.
How did you find juggling working alongside studying? Were there any major struggles?
It had its challenges but I found it was greatly beneficial to see and apply what I was learning in real-life scenarios. It was also useful to be able to understand what products and solutions advisers were recommending and why.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years’ time?
In 5 years, I would hope to have completed the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning and then plan to achieve Chartered status. Ideally, I would like to have also spent some time within the investments industry and be close to becoming a fully qualified adviser.
My employer is ‘The Fry Group’. They have an incredible team who have been very supportive with my exams. I’m grateful that The Fry group have also supported me financially with the course fees and study material.
The Brand Financial Training team send huge congratulations to Darren on this fantastic achievement. We are very happy to have helped him on his journey and look forward to being with him as he proceeds with the CII’s AF exams to achieve the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning.