The Financial Services Skills Council is in the last stages of obtaining its licence as a qualified skills council, heading for a final meeting with its licence assessment panel on Wednesday this week.
FSSC managing director Teresa Sayers is confident that the licence will be approved, granting the organisation a new status that comes with a substantial injection of cash from the Government and propelling it into its next stage of development.
Sayers hopes this injection of funds and vote of confidence from the Government will help the organisation on its way to completing some of its objectives, principally the much-awaited exam review.
Heavy criticism has been levelled at the skills council over the past year for what many believe as intolerable delays in producing its review of the financial services exams framework, the backbone of the industry's qualifications' regime.
Responsibility for the exam regime was removed from the FSA almost exactly a year ago with the formation of the organisation but many IFAs say they have struggled to find any value in what has been produced by the skills council since the move.
With the industry waiting for implementation of the FSA's move from an approved to appointed qualifications' regime, the review is critical for awarding bodies to move forward.
Recently, as the skills council last month unveiled its plans for completing the exam review and implementing the new regime, it came under fire for what many saw as dumbing down the industry with planned exams that are multiple choice and provide no way of assessing advice skills.
However, Sayers, who took over from FSSC founder and former director David Jackman, has hit back at critics, saying they have done a “bad fact-find on this issue”.
She says that this particular argument demonstrates the confusion within the industry about what appropriate exams are going to encompass.
Sayers says the Skills Council is not being prescriptive on advice skills, or any other qualification. She says the qualifications themselves are entirely up to the examining bodies but is quick to add exams that do not show adequate assessment will not be deemed appropriate.
She says: “We are not going to allow new appropriate qualifications and do away with any element of types of assessment like case studies or work examples. We never said we would do that.”
“We have made it very clear to awarding bodies they will be expected to show how a candidate has been assessed in their ability to integrate knowledge and understand it. This is not something likely to be accomplished through multiple choice.”
Sayers says she believes in the move from an approved to appropriate regime, imposed upon the industry by the FSA, and is unapologetic about the time it is taking to undertake the exam review.
She says: “We are being realistic about the amount of work and resources it will take to conduct this review properly. There is a huge range of qualifications to look at. Currently, there are about 500 exams to review and it is important to do this right while managing the industry's expectations.”
However, Sayers is quick to point out that the industry will not have to wait until the entire review is completed (expected to be 2007) to have a structure in place.
She says the perceived delays should not be a reason for people not to continue keeping their qualifications up to date as most present exams are to be considered appropriate. The skills council says it is looking to review the most important exams first.
Sayers says: “Prioritising is key. We have some ideas but we will not decide completely until we have consulted with the FSA and the industry so that we ensure we stay in line with industry needs and expectations.”
The skills council will launch this consultation on March 15 and is hoping to get industry feedback quickly so it can get to work with its new licence, Government funding and extra staff.
“This will be a quick consultation period, not like the drawn-out FSA consultations. We are anxious to get going,” says Sayers.