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For he’s a jolly good fellow

The benchmark qualifica- tion for all UK financial advisers is the Certificate in Financial Planning, which is offered by the Chartered Insurance Institute.

In the regulated life, pension and investment arena, all financial advisers need to have obtained this qualification or equivalent before they can provide client-specific advice.

Those advising on mortgages need to have passed a specialist paper such as CeMap, offered through the Institute of Financial Services, or CF6 or equivalent, offered by the CII. For advisers practising in Scotland, the mortgage examinations are provided by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.

Thus, in today’s advisory market, all client-facing advisers will be at least at the benchmark standard.

The Financial Services Skills Council is currently reviewing the education and training needs of the entire industry. It recently took over the completion of the review of appropriate exams from the FSA.

The skills council will work with the examining bodies and the industry to develop examination standards. It is good news that there will now be agreed standards for providing financial services and advice.

With the move from the FSA’s approved examinations to the skills council’s appropriate examinations will come a wholesale change in the examinations that are available, both in name and the methodology and knowledge needed in order to gain a pass.

Currently, there are 38 advanced qualifications that IFAs can take, some being generic, others specialist. Eight examina- tion-awarding bodies offer these exams:

  • Chartered Insurance Institute
  • Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland
  • Institute of Financial Planning
  • Institute of Financial Services
  • Pensions Management Institute
  • Securities Investment Institute
  • Personal Finance Society
  • UK Society of Investment Professionals

The examinations beyond the benchmark standard – I will call them incremen- tal, for ease — are important to advisers and their clients as they evidence commitment and expertise in particular areas.

A popular incremental qualification is the Advan- ced Planning Certificate from the CII. This is evidence that the holder has a higher level of knowledge and is equipped to advise clients whose overall levels of income and capital require more sophisticated financial advice than is normally provided by an adviser with just the Certificate in Financial Planning.

There are specialist AFPC exams such as G60 in pensions, H15 in supervision and sales, CF8 in long-term care (an AFPC half-credit) and the compulsory G10 if the full AFPC is to be obtained.

Three full credits under the AFPC result in the adviser becoming a member by diploma of the PFS (Dip PFS). Six full credits infer associateship (APFS) and advisers able to attain 10 credits become a fellow (FPPS).

The PFS is the biggest membership body for individual financial advisers (and those in related roles) in the UK market. It was created following the mer- ger of the LIA and Sofa in January 2005. The PFS is a member of the CII Group.

The IFP is the only UK examining body able to award certified financial planner status. This is an internationally-recognised superior financial planning credential. There are around 470 certified financial planners in the UK, with 85,000 worldwide.

The SII, as the name implies, offers incremental investment qualifications, as does the UK Society of Investment Professionals.

One of the most highly respected qualifications is the BSc (Hons) in financial services and associateship awarded by the IFS.

In Scotland, the BA (Hons) in financial services is awarded by the Chartered Institute of Bankers, which also offers an associateship course leading to the chartered banking status, which is the highest level of banking qualification.

Finally, if you see an adviser who is an associate of the Pensions Management Association (APMI), you can be confident that he or she is a pension specialist.

As you can see, the financial services qualification structure is complex. But as the new examination framework settles in, I am sure that more discerning consumers will seek out financial advisers who have taken the time to study their subject matter and worked hard to achieve various designatory letters.

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