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CII launches its £2K exam alternative


The Chartered Insurance Institute has launched its alternative assessment to completing the diploma in regulated financial planning.

The alternative assessment has been subject to a six-month pilot with ongoing input from the FSA.

The CII says it is designed for experienced advisers who would prefer not to take exams in order to meet QCF level four requirements.

The alternative assessment breaks down into three stages.

Firstly, advisers considering the alternative assessment route can use a free diagnostic tool to test how suitable the alternative assessment will be for them.

If they decide to go ahead, advisers then have to submit a portfolio of evidence, including details of any relevant qualifications and continuing professional development.

Finally advisers go through an assessment day, with each candidate assessed by two trained CII assessors. The assessment day is based on four realistic case studies and a technical interview to establish the adviser has the required knowledge and skill levels.

The alternative assessment costs £1,950.

CII director of financial services markets Steve Jenkins (pictured) says: “It has taken six months of intensive work with input from both practitioners and the FSA to develop this alternative assessment route, but we are pleased to be able to provide advisers with a genuinely alternative option to exams.”


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There are 29 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Because I can afford a mere £2k!!

  2. Sound like 70% grandfathering to me. We knew it had to happen if people kicked up enough fuss. Now just wait till summer 2012 and we may well find that it is 99% grandfathering.

  3. Great for the IFA market, just can’t see the big banks paying out £2k for tied advisers who aren’t yet RDR qualified and only have a couple of years left till retirement!

  4. I think that it is very irresponsible that an adviser can get the Diploma Status after a one day course when others have been studying and taking exams for months on end to gain the same creditation.The system needs a complete shake up and new management as the people currently in charge obviously have no idea.

  5. £2000 cost!! Who does this benefit, the adviser, the customer or the CII??
    My bet is on the latter.
    What is the cost of a retake. Have to write a lot of business to cover this.

  6. NJH,

    I can assure you that the Alternative Assessment is tough and the equal of the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning offered by the CII.

    We worked closely with the FSA, our assessors (Chartered Financial Planners) and our candidates to ensure that this was a genuine test that would be viewed as robust, credible and worthy of public confidence. It’s worth pointing out that candidates are being assessed on the contents of a suite of exam RO units that equate to the first year of a degree. All of this over the course of a day. You may think that’s easy but I can assure you that and successful candidates will have earned their qualification.

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute

  7. Kevin,

    This assessment process will see two trained assessors (Chartered Financial Planners) spending a (very) full day with a candidate.

    You will appreciate that such a tailored service carries with it significantly more cost than traditional examinations. Specifically the cost of training the asessors, the cost of providing the assessors with the necessary hardware and software e.g. laptops, the cost of travel and other expenses, the cost of paying the asessors for their time, the cost of piloting, developing and launching an alternative assessment. Taking all of the above into account I think your criticism of the CII is unfair. It’s also worth pointing out that the costs are comparable with those alternative asessments offered by other professions.

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute

  8. Nice little earner for the CII.

  9. David Ross:

    As the old saying goes mate, ‘attack and defend’ is the best form of defence!

  10. Just hope now that IFS bring out a similar assessment which would probably be 1/2 the price of the Cii’s assessment.

  11. Sandra Urquhart 7th March 2011 at 3:35 pm

    yes I wonder if the IFS are planning anything similar, guess we’ll need to wait and see

  12. If you’ve got any business sense, you’d wait and see what someone else would do as paying anything to the CII is a complete waste.

  13. Graham Russell 7th March 2011 at 7:24 pm

    David Ross:

    If you are justifying the £2k cost of the assessment day by pointing to the requirement for trained assessors, how do you justify the cost of the RO exams? Unlike the JO exams they require no examiners to mark papers, but cost the same as the JO exams. The CII must be making a fortune on them.

  14. With reference to one of the responses from the David Ross at CII (7th March, 2.24pm), I find it rather disconcerting to note that a representative from a professional body has made three spelling errors in his reply : “asessors” (twice) and “asessment”, !!

  15. Trainers typically charge £500 to £750 a day on a contract basis, so not sure where the rest goes (laptops etc can be hired per day/week, for a little cost), a room can be hired and the cost spread across many attendees, so there still appears to be a significant profit margin for CII

  16. 2 Fails and there goes the deposit towards the house

  17. I find it unbelievable that there is so much griping about a £2k charge for the alternative assessment.
    How much do they think is fair and reasonable for the preparatory work and a full day assessment?
    I’d be interested to see the fees structure of their businesses in the post-RDR world? Yes, of course I’m joking, not even thought about it yet eh?
    If you don’t fancy the alternative assessment, get your finger out and take the R0 exams. It’ll cost about £1,000 for the coursework and exams and can be completed in around 10-12 weeks (from personal experience).

  18. ……………And then the post RDR exams will be launched just to “Top up” and confirm our knowledge ££££££££££££££

  19. Would you go and see a surgeon who could not pass his exams? Would you go and see a surgeon or a lawyer who is a bit scared of exams and would rather do in day what others learn over two years or more.

    This industry remains full of pathetic gutless people who feel they are better than the regulators, the examiners and usually each other. If you do not have the skill to pass an exam (partly multiple choice) in an industry where you call yourself a professional it is time to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are up to it.

    It’s already possible for a member of the public to use the the internet to check the qualifications of an adviser. Ignore exams at your peril or find an unqualified job to suit your abilities.

  20. £2k may not be so unreasonable when you take into account that your fees also be needed to pay the wages of CII flunkeys to carry out valuable work such as monitoring websites such as this.

    Maybe the CII are ever so slightly overstaffed?

  21. Anyone who can meet the exacting standards of the FSA can launch an alternative assessment. The CII has been able to satisfy the regulator in order to offer a genuine alternative to the examination route. Some may argue that it’s too expensive, too difficult, too easy, too complex, too short and any number of other things but the fact is that it offers advisers a new means of becoming RDR-compliant. Sorry to sound irritated but we’ve done the best we could to balance the needs of advisers with the needs of the FSA, whilst trying to build something that could actualy be delivered at a reasonable cost. We’ve created this in response to those advisers who hadn’t done exams for many years and wanted to be able to evidence their knowledge in a different way. We didn’t create this in isolation. In developing the alternative assessment we sought input from existing advisers. We also sought to make use of Chartered Financial Planners. Anyone taking an alternative assessment will be sat across the table from a financial advice practitioner – you are being judged by your peers not by a trainer but someone who has experience of your world. We also worked with the FSA to ensure we created a suitably rigorous process that met their exacting standards. It also needed to be robust enough to enjoy public confidence and to be capable of standing up to the scrutiny of those advisers who were embarking on the examination route. For this reason it couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be a soft option. To date only a handful of advisers have sat the exam, some passed, some failed. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask that you reserve judgement on the alternative assessment until it has been up and running for a bit longer than a few days.

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute

  22. Norman Dalgleish 9th March 2011 at 9:29 am

    David Ross is currently the best thing that the CII has going for it as he is at least out here responding to people’s questions, concerns and outright factually incorrect abuse of the CII. I for one am grateful for his time and input.

    I’m no specific fan of the CII, but remember it is the FSA that have introduced the RDR. The CII are then simply trying to work within the (ever changing) framework. If you don’t like what the CII do, or what they charge, then quit moaning and go to another professional body that you do like. This is just my speculative opinion, but I think the reason that people don’t is because they know that going through the J0 or R0 exams with the CII gets you the qualification but also a lot of knowledge that we need and a reasonable amount of professional credibility.

  23. Graham Russell 9th March 2011 at 9:40 am


    A valid question. Clearly the cost of paying practitioners to mark papers three times a year disappears when you move to online exams. However whereas we only needed to create questions for three exam papers a year we now have to create questions for exams that are available on each working day of the year. The money we save on paying markers is outweighed by the money we need to pay to examiners to write more questions – there are hundreds of possible RO1 questions. There are other factors to take into consideration when comparing R0 and J0 – postage, training costs, software development, hardware, etc. Overall the cost of an R0 is not significantly different to a J0 unit.

    I can assure you that the CII is not profiting from the introduction of the RDR. We publish our results and these are available on our website for anyone to view. I wouldestimate that our revenue has increased by around 4% over the period of the RDR. Any surplus we generate is relatively small and is reinvested into supporting our members. It is this surplus that has allowed us to develop an alternative assessment, build an online gap fill tool, provide free gap fill CPD, create a new suite of RDR compliant exam unit, introduce mobile exam centres to meet the demands of advisers pre-RDR deadline, provide over 80 gap fill events this year, and in due course offer free SPS’s. No other body can claim to be doing this much for its membership so you will appreciate that it can be frustrating to find yourself being criticised for launching an alternative assessment that advisers actively wanted.

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute


    As an IFA who took part in the Alternative Assessment Pilot and passed, I thought it appropriate to add my comments to this article.

    I passed my original FPC in 1993 before FP1,2 & 3 were introduced. Having added CeMAP in 2004, I had been considering my best exam route to achieve Level 4, and at the beginning of 2010 started further study with J01, J02 & J04. When the R0 exams were introduced midway through the year, and the issues surrounding evidence for gap filling became more clear, I decided to remain with the J0 papers together with R01 and then look to gap fill.

    In early December I was invited to take part in the Pilot. With only 6 weeks to ‘prepare’, I used the CII past papers R01-R06, Calibrand study material, resources for R01,R02 & R04 and Wizardlearning for R03. With around 75-80 hours of targeted study, to brush up on the gaps in my knowledge, the assessment day arrived at the end of January.

    Starting at 8.30 and finishing at 6pm – Calculations questions, 4 very ‘broad’ case studies covering many ‘linked’ issues (in detail) and a final technical interview – I finished the day mentally exhausted. It is difficult to express just how much talking you will do, and you will be surprised by how much ground you can cover with the two Chartered Assessors.

    Having been an IFA since 1997, experience can take you so far, however there are still likely to be gaps in your knowledge. If you can identify and address these, then you will give yourself a fighting chance with this type of assessment.

    I DO believe that this method will be appropriate for those who are willing to do sufficient preparatory work covering ALL areas of the syllabus.

  25. Anon 8th march @4.51

    “This industry remains full of pathetic gutless people who feel they are better than the regulators”.

    They are not pathetic or gutless, but in most cases they can quite rightly claim to be better than the regulator.

  26. To the anonymous poster who felt it appropriate to make light of my poor spelling…

    I am a poor typist. I also suffer from dyslexia. So thanks for that…

    David Ross
    Chartered Insurance Institute

  27. Anonymous | 8 Mar 2011 4:51 pm

    ‘Would you go and see a surgeon who could not pass his exams?’

    I would rather see a surgeon who has been shown how to perform the exact operation I required and had performed this operation under supervision at least twice (succesfully) before. If he told me he had passed some academic qualifications with flying colours which is the reason he was able to be unleashed in an operating theatre on me, and was now an ‘expert’ I would run a mile.

    The assumption with our academic exams always appears to be that the subject matter is a match to the advice being delivered, anyone who has sat them will know full well that it will not improve behaviour or competence quite simply because they arent designed for that purpose, they are academic exams designed very well to deliver an academic status if completed properly.

    I agree about David Ross, I think he is excellent and thank him for responding, especially to some not so polite comments.

  28. To David Ross

    Don’t take it too personally. You must know by now what a bunch of pathetic, whingeing, self-serving bunch the majority of IFA’s are. They don’t bother to comment on these boards unless they’re whining or slagging someone off.
    Still, anything that will keep them away from any studying eh?

  29. Ah, the Waz zock is back. Post under your own name you coward.

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