After around six months of debate, drafting and finetuning, we are now close to finalising the new retail distribution review standards for a benchmark qualification.
There is still a period of consultation to come but this is only likely to result in some tweaking, rather than any fundamental changes.
I say this because every organisation that is involved in the provision of adviser exams or who represents their interests has been involved in developing the standards and any significant differences will have been thrashed out.
What now remains is for the Financial Services Skills Council to consider responses to the wider consultation and publish the final standards. The new benchmark qualification based on these standards will be mandatory for new trainee advisers from the second half of next year but the standards are also very important to existing advisers for two reasons.
The first relates to gap-filling and continuing professional development. Many advisers have completed an existing level four qualification or are en route to one.
Under the FSA’s no regrets’ policy, completion of an existing level four qualification by 2012 means no more exams. It does not mean however, that there is no more to do as any gaps will need to be filled with CPD.
Advisers will have attained their level four qualification through different routes and from different awarding bodies. Each adviser will need to consider the new standards and identify any areas that they have not covered at level four within their qualification.
For example, someone with a Chartered Insurance Institute diploma may not have taken the J06 investment paper (or any equivalent level four investment module) so will need to undertake CPD covering the content in the new standards.
If this sounds complicated, do not despair. The CII is developing a diagnostic tool that will tell members what CPD they need to do and the Personal Finance Society will be helping to deliver CPD programmes.
The second reason that the standards could be important for existing advisers is because for some, particularly those who are just starting on their level four journey, they may want to switch to the new CII qualification once it is available, around the middle of next year.
This would mean that an adviser could reduce the additional top-up CPD.
Advisers who have passed any existing diploma units will be eligible for credits towards the new qualification so no one should wait for its arrival and my advice is still to crack on with the existing CII diploma. But what we are doing is offering even more choice and help to get you there.
Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society