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A charter for the future

Chartered financial planner status is finally a reality after the Privy Council confirmed the title can now be granted.

After four years of campaigning for the move, the Chartered Insurance Institute deputy director general Bob Bullivant says the qualification puts financial advice on the same professional footing as accountants and legal professionals. He describes chartered status as the most significant breakthrough in financial services in his career.

Personal Finance Society president Brian Steeples says: “This is the most important development in financial services in my lifetime and will help to raise awareness of financial planning as a profession with practitioners and the public.”

To achieve chartered financial planner status, an individual will have to gain CII-run financial qualifications equivalent to degree level while adhering to the CII code of ethics and conduct and remain up to date on professional developments. PFS fellowship holders will be given auto- matic chartered status.

PFS members will be sent learning statements which advise them of what they need to qualify. A system will be introduced in November with PFS members able to accrue credits toward achieving chartered status. A total of 290 points will be required and qualifications already held will be taken into account. The process will usually take around three to four years, comparable with an honours degree, says Bullivant.

He claims the qualification will not only benefit those individuals who attain the level but will also offer a halo effect to advisers, who will be part of a professional industry through a professional body.

The CII believes chartered status will give the industry a much needed boost to bring young blood into the industry.

CII group public affairs director John Ellis says financial services has been lacking a clear career path which can now been offered with the ultimate goal of chartered status.

Ellis says: “The regulator has been very welcoming of this change. It has been able to talk to trade bodies and to firms in the past but never to a professional body. Now it has been able to consult with us on this as well.” Incoming CII president Peter Hales is eager to see how the qualification will be received by adviser firms and whether it is pitched at a level that will appeal to employers.

He says: “I do not think that we will see firms demanding a minimum of, say, one chartered financial planner per firm but it will be a recruitment issue, particularly for firms wanting a higher standard of adviser. This is to be an aspirational benchmark and a standard and not an elitist one.”

Hales says it was the for-mation of the PFS out of the merger of the LIA and Sofa that has allowed chartered financial planner status to be achieved.

He expects that advisers who hold non-CII qualifications might consider switching over to become members as they will only be able to achieve chartered status through the CII.

Bullivant says: “This is about unity of purpose. We have one message and that is professionalism. It is all about encouraging the right behaviour.”

Around 500 advisers will be eligible for chartered status in the first tranche which will be invited in November, with the first graduation ceremony for PFS members in early 2006. The CII expects to have around 1,000 chartered financial planners within the first year.

The code of conduct calls on advisers to act with responsibility, integrity, skill, care, diligence and sets out duties to clients, employers, collea-gues, community and the CII. The penalty for breaching the code is removal of chartered status.

Bullivant says: “This qualif- ication is wider than just a professional exam. This is offering financial services the equiv- alent of an internationally recognised kitemark, conforming to professional standards.”

Central Financial Planning director Ian Smith says: “This will be a welcome move. It will help to show some credibility for the industry. It seems that we are the only one of the professional services now that is still optional – you have to use a lawyer, you have to use an accountant. But whether we will start to see huge numbers of people looking for finan- cial consulting, we will have to wait and see.”

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