So you have made the decision to stay one step ahead of the pack and achieve QCF Level 6. The next question to ask yourself is: which route to take? The quickest route? The “easiest” route? Or is it more important to focus on the qualification and subsequent title that best demonstrates your knowledge, understanding and experience in financial planning?
Perhaps of greatest importance is how your qualifications and titles are viewed by the consumer. Mention a chartered accountant or a chartered surveyor to your average client and most would recognise the word chartered as identifying someone who has top-notch knowledge and skills. However, the word certified is often identified with the word certificate, which is generally seen as a lower level of knowledge and skills. You and I both know that a certified financial planner is on a par with a chartered financial planner but does the consumer realise that? If I were a consumer perhaps I would take a look at the Money Advice Service for guidance but it is of no help. Even if you take a look at the new Your Money site from the Personal Finance Society and you will struggle to find anything about chartered or certified. So as far as the consumer is concerned, it is up to the financial planner to ensure that whatever title they have is understood and recognised for the prestige it should rightly carry.
So what are the differences between the various Level 6 offerings and associated titles?
To become a chartered financial planner you must complete the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, which is entirely exam based. For some, this is a major negative point. You must also satisfy the CII’s additional requirements of having five years’ relevant industry experience, being a member of the CII or PFS, adhering to the CII’s code of ethics and keeping CPD up-to-date.
Arguably the main alternative to becoming chartered is to complete the requirements for the certified financial planner as offered by the Institute of Financial Planning. This involves sitting a single exam “The Principles in Financial Planning”, as well as submitting a financial plan based on a case study. If you are not a fan of exams then this may suit you better. You must also have at least one year’s supervised or three years’ unsupervised financial planning experience, as well as hold either an FCA recognised Diploma or an FCA-recognised Transitional Qualification plus gap-fill or a current, valid Statement of Professional Standing.
As a third alternative, you could choose the Institute of Financial Services’ offering, which results in you becoming a Chartered Associate of the Institute of Financial Services. This can be achieved through exams plus coursework for each unit involved. You must also have at least two years’ relevant work experience and fulfil the IFS’s CPD requirements on an ongoing basis.
There are similarities between the options but the final decision will come down to your preference for exams versus coursework and how you feel your resulting title will be perceived by the consumer.
An adviser recently suggested to me that you could always go for the “killer combo” and become both chartered and certified. It seems like a lot of hard work but at least you would have both bases covered.
Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training