Adviser academies offer a clear route to post-RDR success

There are a number of methods of studying for RDR-compliant qualifications open to IFAs, from self-study, to learing exam technique to companies offering remote or online study programmes.

Another option is to sign up to one of the adviser academies run by the big product providers.

Ask IFAs Gavin Wise and Andrew McArdle why they registered with the Aviva Financial Adviser Academy and you will find the word relationship crops up more than once. Both advisers had already established strong relationships with Aviva, making the academy their first port of call for support when studying for their RDR qualifications. Relationships with other IFAs is another common thread as Aviva’s group-based revision workshops turn the solitary experience of studying into something more social.

The Aviva Financial Adviser Academy was established in 2008 and offers free revision support for the CII, the IFS, Calibrand and CIOBS exams through revision workshops, virtual classrooms, practice exam questions and revision techniques.

Wise, managing director of Wise Financial Consulting, had previously benefited from Aviva’s help in repositioning his business.

He says: “I had a good relationship with Aviva as they helped me strip the business down and make cost savings, which I would recommend to other IFAs. When the RDR came along, we all had to make sure we had the level four diplomas. Scottish Widows had an academy to support advisers and Zurich were also doing it. But Aviva had been so good with stripping down the businesses that I decided to go with them.”

McArdle, director of Professional Wealth Management (Yorkshire), found the academy useful in returning to study as an adult.

McArdle was prompted to use the academy by his Aviva business development manager and says: “The subject matter was not easy but the assistance made it extremely easy. The training style is very interactive, with everything there to be discussed.”

Wise says another advantage of joining one of the academy programmes is the group learning sessions.

Wise says: “Being an IFA, many are isolated from the corporate world. We may know a fair amount of IFAs but we can still be solitary creatures. At the academy we all came together, with about 10 to 12 in a group. We were sitting the same papers and would break everything down in to bite-sized chunks and look at questions that were likely to appear in the exams.

“The academy is like being back in the corporate world, with 12 heads being better than one. There is safety in numbers and being part of a group meant we knew if we were on the right or wrong track. The fruits of that approach were borne out as I passed the exam with flying colours last November.”

A clear vision of what to do once the minimum qualifications are attained is crucial in preparing for the post-RDR world.

For McArdle, who achieved all his qualifications in April, the chartered route presents the best career opportunities. “We are appointed representatives of a financial planning company that tends to look after high-net-worth clients. The opportunities that this throws up will ensure our recurring fee income stream is kept up.”

Wise says: “Banks have been putting their advisers to the sword, so, for me, the opportunity post-RDR is huge. I am looking at expanding the business mainly through appointed representatives and self-employed advisers. The opportunities are there even in the depths of a double dip recession as there are not enough IFAs to go round.”