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Advisers must stand the test

I have waited and hoped but, not having found what I was looking for, I am writing to a publication for the first time. Sadly, this is a letter that up to 95 per cent of readers will disagree with as it relates to professional qualifications, which, because they are not compulsory, are hard to gain and bring no obvious benefit, are shunned by almost all.

I want to speak on behalf of some of the 5 per cent of us who have been motivated to move to the next level .

The upheaval in the dist-ribution of financial products ignores a fundamental point. If we want to raise standards, there should be a distinction between advisers who hold professional qualifications and who there-fore have proven expertise in holistic financial planning and those who don&#39t.

Of course, I hear the cry that most advisers have exper-ience but nobody expects an experienced first-aider to undertake major surgery.

Financial advice shapes people&#39s lives. The importance of our service should not be underestimated and it is vital that we give the right advice every time. We should indeed be ranked with solicitors and accountants in the eyes of the world but how can we be when we do not have to evidence our knowledge by examination?

Other professions only allow individuals to practice to the limit of their qualification, so why don&#39t we? Rolf Harris, now acknowledged as an authority on small animal medicine due to his experience, would not be allowed to practice as a vet.

Nobody could claim that the FPC is anything other than a very basic test and, as stated by Scottish Equitable, there just is not the depth of knowledge required out there.

The FSA could go a step further and allow those with the full AFPC or equivalent to be distinguished from the rest, regardless of their remun-eration status. The proposed arrangements will not improve the quality of financial planning offered to the public, so why not give people the opportunity to identify and consult recognised experts, who can either charge fees or provide a review service to everybody, and get paid where appropriate, by commission. After all, getting the services of an IFA by paying fees just means that the word independent relates to the choice of product provider after the advice process is com-plete. It has nothing to do with an adviser&#39s competence.

Joss Harwood

Principal,

Eldon Financial Planning,

Hartlepool

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