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Advisers need to calm down and think of exams like clients

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Catherine Casey

Catherine Casey

Resistance to the RDR may have given way to resignation and numbers applying for qualification do finally appear to be rising but serious concerns continue and they are not necessarily the ones you would expect.

My experience from mentoring IFAs and running workshops to prepare them for the RDR, indicates a negativity towards the qualification process and a fear that even if advisers do set aside valuable time in their working week to prepare for exams the FSA may well change the parameters.

There is a growing awareness that even if the boundaries do change some progress towards higher qualifications still needs to be made fairly soon to meet the deadline but there are several key issues holding advisers back which could result in them failing to make it in time.

Many IFAs are sole traders or small businesses and time, or lack of it, is a major factor.

Advisers already work long hours to keep their businesses afloat and finding the time to study is difficult.

One reason for this is a dependence on getting new business through the door to generate enough commission to pay that month’s bills - one of the very things the RDR sets out to address. By thinking now about changing their business models, perhaps putting clients on retainers and offering a more holistic service, advisers can not only create a more sustainable business but might free up time to prepare for exams.

The other concern I am regularly confronted with is exam nerves. Most IFAs cannot remember the last time they sat an exam and although they have most of the technical knowledge required, they do not know how to apply it in a test setting.

One favoured route for many advisers wanting to satisfy the minimum requirements by the January 2013 deadline is the ifs School of Finance route, which involves a multiple-choice exam, a piece of coursework and an exam based on a prepared case study report.

The multiple-choice exam is fairly straightforward and most advisers can gain good marks with little support.

The coursework presents a bigger challenge and it can be quite tough to achieve high marks. IFAs need to be cautious to avoid plagiarism and tend to lose marks on the bibliography as much as technical content and style. It is the case study that induces most fear. There is a five-week time limit between receiving the client profile and sitting the exam and IFAs tend to panic. They should forget this is an exam and think of it as a client. Examiners are looking for a holistic approach to the advice offered and an understanding of the client’s circumstances.

IFAs would do well to remember they have the necessary knowledge to qualify, they simply need to calm down, learn to apply it and set aside regular time to prepare. Half an hour to an hour a day spent practising coursework, working on exam technique and reading up on weak areas of knowledge should be enough to ensure success in the timescale and overcome fear.
Catherine Casey is managing director of Qualified Adviser

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Readers' comments (20)

  • oh dear Catherine. Perhaps if you actually had to see clients to make a living you would understand the problem.
    Your view is like the FSAs, not in the real world!

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  • Half an hour a day - but for how many days. JO exams were estimates at 300/400 hours. ifs(dip) 397 hours circa over nine months. McHoban reckons on a chicken burger as well.

    I remember being set half an hours home work at school only then to be sitting up to midnight!

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  • Must pop in to see if granny still has any eggs left....!!

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  • Patronising in the extreme.

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  • I have passed multiple choice but I found it very hard, I did fall fowl of the plagiarism with the coursework and struggled with the bibliography, only just scraped through. I have exam next week and I can quite honestly say its all a nightmare! The ifs like to take your money but do not support you in my opinion. The factfind for my exam is a typicle client not!!! £115000 income for the husband and he wants me to calculate the benefits on his co2 emissions for his car. When I ask did any of you oppressed IFA's have to work the CO2 benefits for a typical client. Good luck to everyone

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  • CO2 emissions David?
    Typical client on £115000?
    Says everything about those who set these questions.
    I agree with you, the IFS takes your money then it is over to you.

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  • Oh come on most IFA's aren't capable of passing the exam thats the reason for the million and one excuses day in day out.

    Exams are not a walk on the park but everyone has an hour or 2 spare everyday to read the material they just don't want to.

    Not to busy to moan on this website though are they!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Was wondering when a comment such as yours would be thrown in colin

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  • I don't have "exam phobia" and have never failed an academic one yet.
    Like many other good IFAs who have passed numerous exams in the past, what I find unacceptable and repugnant is that our existing qualifications and the following years of practical, CPD approved experience are being air-brushed away as if we were coming new to the business.
    After suffering 25 years of regulatory madness I have sufficient grasp of all the topics I need to advise the clients I choose to work with, and know as well as any compliance officer that before giving advice on anything I need to ensure I am fully aware of any advantages and pitfalls and can explain these to the customer.
    Many “new” products are just relaunches of ones which went out of fashion – but we experienced advisers can still remember why. However well qualified, inexperienced advisers will make mistakes we have already learned from.
    Those corrupt fools denying grandfathering are condemning the public to suffer the same old bad products because the collective memory will be gone.
    As for plagiarism, compliance these days positively demands it as we need to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that we have brought to the attention of the customer every conceivable aspect however improbable or risk being stung by a retrospective review. This makes most client communication so over-long that it is simply used as a door-stop whereas a succinct summary is all most customers want.
    If anyone gains, it is on average not the client who has to pay for this mostly superfluous guff and who can consequently no longer afford advice but who buys, unadvised, direct.

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