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FSA joins McDonald’s RDR row

FSA director of conduct policy Sheila Nicoll (pictured) has agreed with Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban’s view that advisers must raise their qualification above a diploma in shift management at McDonald’s.

In a Westminster Hall debate yesterday which addressed the RDR’s impact on advisers, Hoban said: “The current minimum financial adviser qualification is at the same level as a diploma in shift management offered by McDonald’s. The products that are being sold by IFAs are infinitely more complex and long lasting in their effects than a Big Mac.”

Speaking at a Chartered Insurance Institute RDR conference today, Nicoll said: “I know that Mark Hoban caused a bit of a stir by his analogy of present qualification to being equivalent to a diploma in shift management offered by McDonald’s. I know there has been a considerable reaction to that.

“All I would say is that is school leaving level really enough for professionals who are advising on people’s pensions, their investments for their children’s education and weddings, rainy day money, annuities and all sorts of very important and complex situations?

“I just think the simple answer to that question is that it is not enough. The new standard QCF level four is roughly the equivalent of the first year of a bachelor degree and we think this is the right minimum level of training and qualification for advising people on important decisions.”


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There are 79 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Probably a fair point but I wonder what level of qualifications Sheila Nicoll has?

    After all – they are the ones doing the regulating so should have at least the same qualifications as those they are regulating.

  2. paolo standerwick 21st October 2010 at 11:22 am

    Oh yes, and what level of qualifications do the F-Pack staff have?

    Normally not even road sweepers level!

    Apologies to road sweepers.

  3. I wouldnt disagree with those sentiments for someone new coming into the industry but are these idiots saying that the experience that I have gained from advising clients over the last 20 years count for nothing!

  4. Another pointless comment from a pointless individual. I’m yet to hear of a school leaver being authorised with his GCSEs so the idea they are the same level is laughable.

    Looking at Sheila’s biography on the FSA website I see that she doesn’t actually hold the FPC and has never worked in Financial Advice so presumably she has no idea what she is talking about. Incidentally Sheila’s previous role at the FSA was Director of Retail Firms where she was responsible for the oversight of…..the banks. I would suggest Sheila pays more attention to actually doing her job and making sure she does a better job than her last efforts rather than talking about something that she has no experience in.

  5. I wonder what qualifications she has to be Director of policy conduct. Probably like the rest of the FSA nothing in Financial affairs

  6. So speaks the blind with no relevant experience whatsoever!

    One could assume a firms’ CPD regime would be entirely focused on those individuals who give such advice and ensure it is appropriate, compliant, fair, not-misleading, etc.

    We now need some more exams in 2012 to be able to do this.

    I’m off to knit the Emperor a new set of cloths!

  7. She is a modern languages graduate (French and German).
    So totally unqualified to do her job – apart from her experience which counts of course for nothing!

  8. There’s no show without Punch

  9. Shiela I suggest you resign as well,
    you are almost as arrogent as Hoban.
    37 years as an IFA with 3rd generation clients tells you what experience rather than just qualification can do.

  10. A member of my family is a midwife who is very well regarded at the hospital she works at. She has received several commendations from the health authority she works for, over the last few years, for her work on patient screening (for abnormalities) and setting up new systems and protocols.
    She teaches other hospital and community midwives.
    She is resposible for coordinating screeniing of 5,500 births every year.
    She counsels grieving parents.
    She speaks at conferences.
    Nowadays you need a degree to get into midwifery.

    She has two GCEs from her Secondary Modern school.

  11. if all an adviser needs to be competent is a qualification, why do we have CPD, audits, KPI’s etc.
    Surely the FSA have enough information on levels of ability already.
    Isn’t this new requirement for qualification just a money making scam?

  12. RDR – Bring it on

    Experience and practice counts for nothing if not supported by professionalism and a proven knowledge base.

    Do we really want the world to think that we are incapable of undertaking a skills based test higher than a McDonalds shift manager.

    Please stop wingeing

  13. Presumeably with her dress sense, she spends a lot of time in McDonald’s.

  14. Sadly RDR has now simply dissolved into an argument about commission and qualifications. It appears the customer/consumer has now been forgotten.

    How do you examine people skills? I am absolutley certain I would far rather a 60 year old IFA with 30 years of experience advise my parents than a 25 year old with an armful of qualifications but no people skills and no life experience.

  15. well if that is the case that our qualifications mean nothing in comparison to a big mac than it proves the point that the IFS & CII are merely ripping us off in their money making scheme, considering all the exams I have taken over the years I consider this to be an insult!!!!

  16. Steven Farrall (Adviser Alliance) 21st October 2010 at 11:33 am

    This is all ‘positioning’ and ‘spin’. It’s a concerted, news managed, pre-planned assault to capture the news agenda and ‘triangulate’ IFA’s.

    Looking at RDR their position is untenable. Firstly they are confusing training with education, ignoring experience and ommitting to state that the vast majority of older IFA’s come from ex life company staff who were very well ‘trained’ by their life company.

    The essential point is that they are making an arbitrary decision that at a point in time everyone not so ‘qualified’ as they dictate, that was, prior to that point in time carrying on in business quite happily and doing a very good job, should after that point in time be deemd to be incompetent. Such a position is self evidently risible.

    Oh and Hoban is a complicit fellow traveller in all this. He is a classic product of the ‘political class’.

  17. I previously worked in the gaming industry, another heavily regulated industry and there, to get to the top, you have to work your way up from the bottom, no getting a job without previous experience of the job below. Perhaps this model would be well served within the financial services industry, people with real, hands on experience of the job and understanding of how things actually work instead of ‘jobs for the boys’ and comments from people in their ivory towers. Who, with their very handsome salaries probably don’t even have mortgages as they are able to buy their properties for cash!!!

  18. Colin Edenborough 21st October 2010 at 11:42 am

    Do we get Stars to put on our name tags like McDonalds do when we pass each exam.

  19. Having recently attend a seminar from a well respected company we were told of an individual that at an IFP meeting was spouting about structured products and apparently it was all wrong (according to the specialists).

    This individual was I understand a Chartered Financial Planner.

    This I believe shows that examinations do not count for everything.

    Very much in this job it is about experience as any fund manager will tell you.

    Yes examinations count for something but they are not the b all and end all of our job. How many people have pension examinations that are now completely irrelevant as the legislation has changed so much from what was studied.

    CPD is far more important than any examination and it should be that which is more structured and given attention to.

  20. Ms Nicoll is clearly ……… a banker.
    How delightfully FSA of her to completely miss the earlier well made point that all the diplomas and qualifications in the world mean absolutely nothing, without being accompanied with years of experience in the industry and people skills!!!
    This is a people business (or should be) looking after the best interests of your clients. Who will look after the best interests of the “ordinary” client when most IFA’s have been driven out of business by the FSA? The Banks !!!!!
    Ha! Dont make me laugh.

  21. I just don’t get it! How does someone who graduated in modern languages get such high profile positions when they have no examinations/experience of financial services. Why should we be dictated to by such an individual. Surely, if you are on such high powered committees/boards you should at least have to prove your professionalism. She has none that I am aware of. Maybe she could enlighten us.Perhaps the new body which is to replace the FSA should bear this in mind before they appoint ‘jobs to ‘the boys’.

  22. OK – so all these Tin Gods at the FSA have never taken an FPC exam –

    First off, they should be suspended on no pay until they have taken and passed the current minimum exams in order to make a valid comment on the qualifications required.

    Second: They need to undertake the same CPR Regeime as everyone they are regulating in order to fully understand that requirement.

    Third: They also need to pass any new exams befor the deadline they themselves set.

    Fourth: When an IFA gives bad advice or fails in their duty of care to their clients, they get fired and are personally liable for any loss . . . the Staff at the FSA failed miserably in their regulation of the banks and all the large institutions that they like to get into the pockets of – so – Sack them and make them personally liable . . .

    Fifth – Oh Dear. No More FSA. Great, then perhaps advisers can start helping clients to get correctly insured again – and start saving instead of borrowing from the banks as they have been under the FSA regeime ! Big problem being that right now, a high number of people do NOT have the insurance they need because of all the scare stories. They don’t have the savings products thay had when I first started under the Lautro/Fimbra era and they are up to their ears in debt, thanks to the FSA looking the other way on irresponsible lending – Oh – and a lot of advisers have had enough and gone looking for less stressful lives !

  23. I do believe in increasing qualifications certaintly for industry entry and newer people.

    For existing people, it is also right but the timescale is not (I should add not a problem for me, just an observation of what is fair).

    In 30 years in the industry I have worked with some highly intellegent people with exams coming out of their ears who will never understand people and family dynamics and should never be let loose on the public. I have also worked with some ‘low qualified’ people who did and do a better job than most could ever hope to.

    The ability to pass an exam does not prove ability to understand people and their needs. It does not prove honesty. These issues are core to everything we do.

    Emotional intellect is not recognised at all by the FSA and thise in power becaust they are mainly ‘process people’ who think systems are the answer to everything.

    Emotional intellect is a gift and those with it should not be lost to the industry or their clients.

    On a final point, are you now going to make the likes of Lord Sugar and Bannatyne resign if they dont take an exam??

  24. FSA
    Foods Standards Agency???
    Has she gone in the wrong office

  25. Another stupid comment from someone in the FSA Ivory Tower! To even suggest any analogy with an adviser and a shift manager at McDonalds just goes to show the arrogance and ignorance of those who make them. These are deliberately provocative remarks to cover up some of the points being made about the RDR. NOBODY, I know of disagrees with the need to constantly ensure advisers are up to the job and indeed where appropiate can back it up with an examination. However, even if you left school without any GCSE’s does not been that you cannot achieve in life and go on to study, better youreself, learn from experience, over time take the exams you need to and through the University of Life gain the knowledge and experience you need. Anyone with all the exams in the world does NOT make an experienced adviser -this takes expereince, time and a disire to really add some quality advice to client’s. If you are 60 and a fully experienced pro from working in the industry, why would you want to put yourself through even more stress to sit even more exams in order to finish a career? Why should this be? The FSA are effectively going to disinfranchse those of 60 or whatever from doing their job if they do not have all the qualification exams under RDR. Certainly I believe a case for an abuse of an individuals human rights to have retrospective authorisation qualifications. Would this happen to a solicitor or accountant? CPD, yes, but not what the FSA are currently proposing.
    The bottom line anyhow is that the VAST majority of people are far more comfortable using a more experienced advisor, something that the FSA of course does not seem to be able to comprehend, nor understand, nor see the danger that manys experienced adviser near to retirement will just be lost to the industry.

  26. email to Sheila sent.

    Dear Sheila

    Your comments in defences of Mark Hoban Known affectionately in the treasury as “Hulk Hoban” simply demonstrates further how far away you are both from understanding the issues.

    There is no argument regarding level 4 minimum entry level .

    A simple question. How much of your current position and decision making is based on your passed career and experience in financial services or is your position solely as a consequence of your degree in French and German.?

    (I would welcome a response to this question.)

    A commentator on a blog in response to your comments makes a clear point.
    “A member of my family is a midwife who is very well regarded at the hospital she works at. She has received several commendations from the health authority she works for, over the last few years, for her work on patient screening (for abnormalities) and setting up new systems and protocols.
    She teaches other hospital and community midwives.
    She is responsible for coordinating screening of 5,500 births every year.
    She counsels grieving parents.
    She speaks at conferences.
    Nowadays you need a degree to get into midwifery.

    She has two GCEs from her Secondary Modern school.”

    CPD and progressive study is how this person demonstrates to the “system” that she is competent patients are the true beneficiaries of her “experience”.
    The solution to the qualification debate demands commons sense and of course an initiative to address it. All we have is ill informed commentators.
    I have a solution.

  27. What level of qualification do they suggest, PHD? Also has she seen the film “Supersize Me” this deals in some detail with the long lasting effects of eating Big Macs.

  28. Does this mean employers will start to pay advisers at the correct level for increased qualifications? For some the current levels of pay offered isn’t much better than McDonalds!

  29. why oh why are these people put in the position they are in ,none have been in financial services and none of them have a clue what they are talking about!

  30. Nothing wrong with setting benchmarks and standards.

    As I see it what is at issue here is:

    – the timing and inflexiblility of the new standards causing real problems for real people

    – the totally unnecessary ignorant & juvenile point scoring attitude evident in both politicians and certain people in the FSA

    If the same amount of time spent trying to impress people was used to resolve the genuine problems many IFA’s will experience we might get somewhere. I don’t hold out much hope!

  31. What is the problem with obtaining a qualification as a general rule, surely those with 30 years experience should walk the exams?

  32. In many respects, the RDR is a just mendacious (not to mention monumentally costly) distraction from the real ailments of the industry and, in all probability, the banks will find a way to wriggle out out of it.

    Hoban, it should be noted, displayed his ignorance by asking “How do we know that all these older advisers are actually any good?”

    The evidence is all around you, Mr Hoban, but there are none so blind as those who will not see and you are one of them.

  33. You are completely tactless Sheila, you should know better being a director. Building a respected relationship with the industry you regulate is obviously not one of your strong points ! Unforgivable ?!?!?!. Try to learn from the comments (if you read them!)

  34. Its all a money making scam, cost will force us all out of the business, we have changed our models so many times over he last 20 years to suit the Fimbra, PIA, FSA. The FSA only want to regulate the banks and BS because when they say the fees for the year are, they all say ok here you go and increase the costs to their banking clients. Its an open chequebook that we cannot continue to fund

  35. Dale | 21 Oct 2010 12:31 pm

    What is the problem with obtaining a qualification as a general rule, surely those with 30 years experience should walk the exams?


    You would certainly think so, wouldn’t you? Sadly, I think it’s far more likely that the exams would expose the inadequacies in most IFAs’ technical knowledge. Perhaps that’s what they’re afraid of?

  36. Well done Bob Perry.

  37. Sheila

    Cast your mind back some fifteen years or so, when, prior to its phoenixing, it was nown as the PIA.

    The PIA decided that FPC 1,2 & 3 should be instituted to ensure a foundation level of knowledge for advisers.

    Advisers took these examinations in good faith because it had been decided that they were appropriate. Some financial journalists also took the exams and some failed and had to resit them on a number of occasions. From this you may draw whatever conclusion you wish.

    Every professional body – whether representing solicitors, nurses or accountants – has cause from time to time to upgrade and rejig the entry level examinations. Nurses are going through this at this very moment.

    Every professional body has confirmed to me that they do not make these new qualifications retrospective for existing practitioners. They deem it appropriate that these individuals top up their existing knowledge and experience with worthwhile CPD.

    Whilst Hoban feels it appropriate to score pounts with emotive utterances we can forgive him for that because his knowledge is such that FPC1 would trouble him. However, your vigorous defence of his nonsense is unacceptable. We do expect our highly paid regulators to be knowledgeable to the extent that they can see the wood for the trees.

  38. What a mong!
    You do it, every body does it

  39. Mark Hoban and Sheila Nicoll, please go and mend shoes as you are both talking utter cobblers.

  40. And this comes from Gluttony Wharf & McHoban 21st October 2010 at 1:53 pm

    All at a time when Ms Nicoll from Gluttony Wharf backs Mc Hoban’s comment about ‘Mcqualifications’ and repeats her warning about ‘commission gluttony’.

    If you take Hobans second home claims alone you’d buy 22,341 Big Mc Meals.

    Hoban expense claims at the taxpayers’ expense:

    £35 toilet roll holder,

    £79 on silk cushion covers,

    £100 on a shower rack

    £240 for eight cushions,

    £294 on a coffee table and

    £749 for a television.

    Total second home claims

    2004-05: £20,049

    2005-06: £21,545

    2006-07: £19,788

    2007-08: £21,280

  41. Anonymous at 11.30
    Whether you agree or disagree with level4Q this is the most sensible comment ever written on the subject. We must remember however, the FSA are not really interested in higher Quals, IFA’s are a thorn in their side (for no other reason than they don’t want to deal with us) but they can’t sack us legitimately. By not taking the exams IFA’s are effectively sacking themselves.

  42. I suppose that it’s inevitable that the RDR will eventually lead to IFA’s being required to have appropriate degrees soon. It will certainly solve the problem of how all unempoyed graduates repay their frightening loans. It’s just a pity though that as a result of the RDR so many perfectly competent ethical IFA’s will fall away because of their age or perhaps fear of exams, leaving the field to the so reliable ethical Banks and tied sales forces.

  43. Sheila Nicol and all her co partners have a simple motto gained largely with no Advising experience,
    ” do as i say not as i do”

  44. Well i got a degree in Accounting & Financial Management, and find it silly that i still have to sit the cert & dip exams to get into this industry!!!

  45. Perhaps the FSA should regulate MacDonalds to make sure the burgers are cooked correctly.

    No doubt the FSA would destroy the fast food sector within 3 to 5 years.

  46. Once the FSA get their Degree Qualifications in order….mmm hold on you dont need any univercity qualifications to be in the FSA !

    Although Advisers get the basic qualification needed to do the job, they are trained by Advisers in firms with a wealth of experience…. How many very experienced Advisers are going to bother going back to “school” so as to sit harder and harder exams…. usually set by idiots who dont have a clue what anything means?

    Whats the point… why dont we all close our doors and let the Banks who received 2000 complaints a day with regards their advice advise consumers !! There is a good idea FSA…. !!!

  47. I have never read such a whinging, self-pitying bunch of babies.

    The topic here is about IFA qualification – it says it all that so much comment is deflected back towards MP qualification rather than staying on topic.

    The whole IFA industry is based upon the poorly informed advising the uninformed to buy commission loaded products.

    Why not sell advice if it’s so valuable? – oh yes no-one will buy it!

    My apologies to the % of IFAs who have taken the time and trouble to become properly qualified professionals – this rant is not aimed at you!

  48. @Dale

    Back in pre-history when I was studying for my O-levels I read a comment that has stuck with me ever since:

    “A knowledgeable man does not necessarily know the answers but he does know where to find them”.

    The flaw in your argument is that the only reference material you can take into an exam must be between your ears.

    Cramming it in becomes increasingly difficult as you get older. In the real world it doesn’t matter. He can look up anything he is not sure of.

    This is not unique to financial services unusual – I have known my GP to do it.

    I learned about studies into how it becomes harder to take exams as you get older as a student working towards an honours degree in Biological Sciences.

    Do not think that because a more mature person cannot spout out knowledge under exam conditions they cannot give valid advice.

  49. “Incidentally Sheila’s previous role at the FSA was Director of Retail Firms where she was responsible for the oversight of…..the banks.”

    Er…. no. If you look at the FSA’s structure you’ll find that Retail Firms comprises some small banks, spreadbetters, mortage lenders, building societies, insurers, asset managers and most of the big IFA networks.

  50. “A simple question. How much of your current position and decision making is based on your passed career and experience in financial services or is your position solely as a consequence of your degree in French and German.?

    (I would welcome a response to this question.)”
    My response is simple – before you start criticising others for their lack of experience, you should learn to spell. Perhaps then people would treat advisers with more respect.

  51. Sheila. How did you get your position. I would have thought tact and diplomacy would be right there at the top of the list of skills required to do your job and yet you have failed miserably. If there is a qualification for it, I suggest you take it!! If yopu fail of course, you will have to cease trading!!

  52. I thought it was MPs who were famous for avoiding the question when it didn’t suit them – you IFAs are giving them a run for their money!

    Q: Does any IFA here believe that FPC is a suitable level of qualification to allow advice to be given on topics as complex as pensions and investment?

    I’ll repeat it.

    Q: Does any IFA here believe that FPC is a suitable level of qualification to allow advice to be given on topics as complex as pensions and investment?

    Echo answers?

  53. oh dear Steve, its a pity that you don’t understand the question! Been studying to much?

  54. Kermit the frog! 21st October 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Nicoll and Hoban arent qualified to and probably couldnt flip a burger let alone manage a shift at McDonalds!?!
    why dont they both talk to the people really going to be at a loss of this debate, the clients, and see if they would rather a Graduate or an experienced Advisor look after them!??!
    now go and sit the exam and then tell me you are better placed to advise than me you muppets!

  55. Nick | 21 Oct 2010 4:13 pm

    oh dear Steve, its a pity that you don’t understand the question! Been studying to much?


    I think Steve understands the question perfectly well. Why don’t you provide him with an answer?

  56. I’m almost at RDR Level 4 but neverthless the analogy to McDonalds… I find insulting. Do I feel any more qualified to give FA to my clients after passing 4 exams this year after having learning daft amounts of technical CII material?…..

    Erm No…What had made me a decent adviser was being trained by 2 certified financial planners – coming from an Accountancy background & doing endless amounts of CPD & building up my knowledge voluntarily on the things that DO turn me into a good IFA. I’m intending to become Chartered or Certified.
    Oh not to mention being an IFA for about 8 years…

    It’s called experience!!.. Mr Hoban

    If an IFA is at McDonalds level, I wonder what the advice dished out by the banks in the main is at??!!!

  57. I have to agree with the…… minority.

    Everyone accepts the fact that having to do these additional exams is “inconvenient” No arguement there.

    It’s an extra expense, which will irritate alot of people…….agreed.

    My problem is……..if you’re all so fantastic at your jobs, have kept up-to-date with changes in legislation, know the current tax rules, understand Investment principles & risk and can then apply all of these factors to real life situations……….these exams should be an absolute walk in the park. Shouldn’t they?

    Regardless of your experience, times have changed. You should have kept up to date with these changes in order to perform your job competently, if you have……don’t bother wasting your money on the text books, just book your exams & pass them, because you know it all already…….don’t you?

    If I was a client, I would be somewhat dismayed if my financial adviser was advising me on tax-planning & then when it came to testing his knowledge he couldn’t manage to answer 70% of the questions correctly!?!

    You only have to answer 1 in 3 questions right, if you are unable to do that, you shouldn’t be allowed to carry on advising clients.

    Sorry, but stop moaning about the inevitable and get your exams done.

  58. Due to the fact that few of the FSA hold these qualifications they do not realise that the majority of qualifications above certificate level do assist an adviser to deliver advice.

    Until the recent invasion of alternative study routes they were industry qualifications not adviser specific qualifications. By recently I mean some as recent as August 2010.

    This is what happens when people are placed in charge of an organisation, the FSA who neither have experience or the qualifications. I suppose anyone who works for them with the advanced qualificiations but limited experience would not know themselves the shortfalls of this material.

    Much higher quality and tested CPD for existing advisers, only higher qualifications for new entrants once all of the study material and qualification modules have been reviewed properly so they assist new entrants to deliver higher quality advice.

    It all sounds obvious having an industry which is better trained, but that assumes that the training material delivers that end result, onlookers would never consider that the material was not in fact designed specifically for advisers.

    I can understand outsiders wondering what the hell we are shouting about when they do not know.

    Incidentally those with the qualifications would rather you did not know this.

  59. Jennifer Nicholls 21st October 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Ms Nicoll should resign, she is directly threatening the Livelihood of thousands of advisers, many liike me who have been an adviser for 20 years. I am supporting 3 children at university on my own and trying to run a business. Surely they know we have the relevent qualifications, we also take exams every year plus CPD’s. What is to stop them in a few years time saying the same thing and introducing further exams, some of which are not relevent to our jobs. Who is on our side. Even the IFS doesn’t understand our jobs if you look at the questions in Financial Principals. What relevance is ‘What is the compulsory car insurance for driving in the UK’ ok I know the answer but WHY that question? I’m sick to death of the whole thing.

  60. So I’m a Mc Donalds shift manger? I wouldn’t employ the FSA to work the drive thru window but maybe with some training in customer service they could sweep the car park !!

  61. In response to Ron at 4.42: The study material IS specifically designed for advisers. Unless, of course, you think that taxation, trusts, pensions, and investment principles play no part in effective financial planning. Is that what you think?!

  62. “The new standard QCF level four is roughly the equivalent of the first year of a bachelor degree”

    Strange world where this “qualification” is seen as more appropriate than 30 years of experience, where a BA (hons) degree in Business Studies has no value, nor a post grad diploma, nor an MBA , nor a Master of Science degree.

    Sometimes I think some at the FSA need to do a bit of gap filling themselves – It’s called a brain and it fits in the currently empty gap inside the head, between the ears.

  63. i find that i am already accidentally qualified to level 4 as i have taken new examinations as i have felt they have become or were possibly to become to relevant topics.

    to be honest, i do not believe that this generally makes me a better advisor, nor does is mean that my normal client – ‘Mr&Mrs 2.4 kids and a dog’ – are any more likely to be better serviced / or choose to pay / by fees rather than them choosing after consderation the dreaded ‘c word’

    the two issues are completely separate – apart from falling under the current flavour of the year RDR

  64. Anonymous | 21 Oct 2010 7:21 pm

    The advanced qualifications were not designed to give improved advice at all, they were industry wide qualifications for the whole industry and academic not designed to deliver a higher quality advice to the consumer.

    If they were not deisgned for this purpose it is little wonder that they do not serve this purpose well.

    A PERCENTAGE of the material was useful, that is a massive difference to the course designed to deliver advice. A percentage of any old course may be useful but that is not good enough in this instance.

    Many advisers before the RDR came along complained that only 20-50% of the coursework was any use and it missed huge areas of the advice process.

    Remember in a very short time new advisers will be racking up over 1,000 hours qualifications and CPD surely making as near 100% of this useful and beneficial to the consumer should be the target?

    For instance even in the qualification required to deliver Long Term Care, there is no section on additional fact finding useful in discovering a client’s shortfalls. The first thing you should know when meeting a potential long term care client surely?

    In the recent Investment Principles there is no time allocated to reviewing EXISTING portfolios or single investments, we review most of our time, over 50% of my time in investments is reviewing them, this is not reflected in the coursework. There is no discussion anywhere about writing a review report on anything never mind investments.

    Some people with the qualifications are silent, who can blame them, but if you look back at the gap fill required by some of the people with older qualifications the gap is enormous, this is only the gap between the FSA’s required learning outcomes not the gaps in current legislation, new systems of work, new product releases or the gaps between the main daily routine of an adviser and the course work material.

    Imagine what some of these gaps would look like.

    You are making this up in your head. You are incorrect.

  65. I have had a brilliant idea, I would advise anyone going to get advice from an IFA to ask their attitude to RDR. If they say anything more negative than it’s an inconvenience then my advice would be to run a mile – because as others have said before, if they really know what they are doing the exams should be a walk in the park. The loudest whingers must simply be the least capable of giving financial advice.

    By the way, 20 or 30 years experience can also mean 20 – 30 years of doling out bad advice just to get a commission payment, it doesn’t equate to quality of advice at all.

    Luckily for me I work in the industry so I won’t need your services. The IFAs on here (note it’s IFAs, not IFA’s, but spelling and grammar is hardly a strong point in this community) all seem to be beyond reproach and of course working solely for the good of their clients and not their commission, what paragons of virtue! However the public at large are well aware that 90% of you are cowboys. That’s why the FSA are on your case so grow up and take responsibility for yourselves, because this whining is just reinforcing the poor public image you so richly deserve.

  66. In response to Ron: I certainly wouldn’t dispute that the ‘J’ exams test technical knowledge (I can’t speak for the new ‘R’ exams as I haven’t sat any), but surely technical knowledge is an essential part of an adviser’s role. The exams ARE therefore relevant to advisers!

    As for testing on specific client scenarios, I agree that this is important and would point out that it’s covered off in the advanced diploma exams. So perhaps level 6 (be that chartered or certified financial planner status) is a more appropriate benchmark. I’m certainly all for that!

  67. Anonymous | 22 Oct 2010 10:39 am

    A quote from one of the many lengthy medical professions discussions on this very subject:

    A physician’s competence (whether a doctor in training or a specialist) consists of a variety of roles
    and therefore cannot be measured via a simple test (for example a written examination).

    This was in one of the many reports from the medical profession which talks about CPD for existing medical staff, many of which had no formal qualifications when first employed, remember not all are surgeons or doctors.

    Why disagree with these countless professional reports which cost millions to research in a profession which many wish they could emulate in financial services?

    Relevancy is very different to advanced courses specifically designed for financial advisers to have the outcome of delivering higher quality advice to the public a purpose they were not designed to achieve and not even designed specifically for advisers.

    I cannot understand why when we have an opportunity to raise our standards to the likes of the medical profession we do not follow their CPD system to the letter, medical staff are not as whole viewed as incompetent and they use structured CPD.

    When a professional industry goes that way which involves LIFE AND DEATH I would seriously take a good hard look at yourself if you hold a contrary view and just for a moment consider you may be wrong or not quite as bright as you may think you are.

    Changes in medicine are like changes in our industry – constant.

  68. Steve | 21 Oct 2010 3:27 pm

    Q: Does any IFA here believe that FPC is a suitable level of qualification to allow advice to be given on topics as complex as pensions and investment?

    In answer to Steve, what is so complicated about your average couples investment and financial planning needs?Most planning is just basic maths and as such I’d say FPC is more that adequate.

    As for the exams, I can only speak from experience and say that despite a 100% track record so far, in the main I’d say that they concentrate on situations that most advisers will seldom come across and that passing is as much about exam technique as outright technical knowledge.

    Personally I’d rather see open book exams with actual case studies, so that IFAs can demonstrate their ability to do the actual job, rather than be able to answer obscure questions that will seldom be required in the real world.

  69. Re Steve,

    No not in isolation, quality tested and properly structured CPD.

    This could include tested case studies.

    security on online systems is not beyond current technology, web cams, stop clock and personal question answers etc

    I would like to see constant CPD that alters with issues at the time of issue in the industry, ie Keydata triggers structured product CPD and so on.

    Never out of date advisers, what could be better?

  70. “I would like to see constant CPD that alters with issues at the time of issue in the industry, ie Keydata triggers structured product CPD and so on.”

    And IFAs accuse the FSA of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted! CPD to make you ready for the thing that’s already gone wrongl I despair…

    And you can have CPD like a doctor when you’ve done five years’ formal training up front like a doctor.

  71. Re Adam, everyone in the medical profession are now doctors?

    All medical staff with the same average age of financial advisers had more stringent entry qualifications?


    Think before you type.

  72. The problem with the RDR and Qualifications is the one size fits all approach.

    If an adviser is offering advice on complex issues then clearly even level 4 or 5 is inadequate.

    But the vast majority of advice given or sales made does NOT involve anything really complex.

    e.g closing the savings gap. Ron Sandler pointed out quite correctly the ideal asset mix for the masses – Equity, Property, Fixed Interest and Cash. Combine these assets in a
    actively managed fund within an ISA and sell this to 90% of the population and what else is required ?

    Provided the investor understand that this is a long term proposition is there really any need for obsessive asset allocation, monthly rebalancing, sophisticated fee based advice and expensive compliance ?

    Produce a suite of Inexpensive tax efficient flexible products which can be sold on a commission basis by those with level 3 and let those who want to provide expensive, complex fee based advice pass level 6 exams and get on with their 5% market segment.

  73. @ Peter Turner

    Is not the point that an IFA with 30 years experience should not need to study to take these exams as they should already know the content to an expert degree, gained through their vast experience?

    “A knowledgeable man does not necessarily know the answers but he does know where to find them”.

    Does that make google potentially the best Financial adviser ever then? especially with the technical savvy of generation Y and those born to an on-line world.

  74. Re Dale.

    It is very easy to pick and choose examples from outside, you have a ‘full world’ to go at.

    However if you want to remain on the ‘profession’ or at least one of them that so many people wish to emulate, solicitors do actually learn how to reference things rather than recall by memory.

    This is due to law changing so regularly and precedent cases.

    The truth is that people who decided to move this way forward did not know what they are doing, they have somehow not understood or even bothered to learn how various generic types of qualification and learning are designed to work and what they deliver, then match the outcomes required to the learning techniques which deliver this.

    They did it all the wrong way round, quite how they were sold this is difficult to understand but there is a common theme of arrogance from people with qualifications no matter if they are from Uni or in the industry, maybe a feature of qualifications is they make the person feel more knowledgeable than they actually are.

    I suggest they consult with people who understand learning techniques and their outcomes or simply look at the countless emdical reports on the subject as they too employed people at one time on low or no qualifications and have overcome this issue and have a much better reputation than this industry.

    A very basic error has been made.

    Again not everyone in the medical profession is a surgeon and we certainly do not require that amount of learning time, they have to learn about the human body at a medical level first, then their profession.

    We have no equivalent to learn, just our profession and with the amount of constant change in our industry referencing may actually be a better idea, that one is open to debate.

  75. @ron

    I disagree on the arrogance point, and suggest by the sound of the board that a common level of arrogance exists with IFAs, who with vast experience and limited qualifications claim that the qualifications are unneccessary, it’s not just those with qualifications who should be painted with that brush.

    BTW – I have a greater level of practical experience in the Financial Services industry than by qualification.

    Also it maybe that those who bothered to take the time to get qualified could feel aggrieved at those who choose not but still claim they are providing good advice and the qualifications are pointless. The lack of support to take the IFA ‘calling’ to a consistent level of qualification is potentially damaging to the aware public perception of the industry as a whole.

  76. Re Dale.

    My issue is that there is no evidence to back up your case for existing advisers, this is where the arrogance lies from my perspective.

    You can prove what I am saying is true so very easily, look for the many reports on improving medical staff across Europe, the argument for CPD is there, debated, and scrutinised by the best minds in Europe including those involved in education and training.

    Where is your evidence?

    As far as I can see this idea was hurriedly thought up without any planning or based on any fact.

    You can also very easily look at various generic learning techniques and see what they are designed to achieve, academic qualifications do not have the outcome required in the RDR, it is a mistake.

    In addition no-one has matched the percentage of chartered advisers in the industry as a whole to the percentage of chartered advisers caught up in some of the not so wise advice areas, key data for example, what happens if someone did this and double the chartered adviser percenatge or treble were found to be giving lower standard advice?

    Would you want to replicate failings?

    I find the argument for qualifications is unsupported by any fact I can see anywhere and in no supporting documentation by the FSA that is why I question it.

    The argument the other way is ‘it just is better so shut up’ hardly the actions of people who are thoughtful and build a good future in the industry.

    Looks like another mistake waiting to happen, why not get it right?

  77. I’m struggling to comprehend how enhanced technical knowledge – demonstrated by way of examination – could ever be viewed as a bad thing. Clearly Ron knows better, though.

  78. Anonymous | 27 Oct 2010 10:46 am

    I’m struggling to comprehend how enhanced technical knowledge – demonstrated by way of examination – could ever be viewed as a bad thing. Clearly Ron knows better, though.

    You appear to struggle between ‘good or bad things’ and the desired outcome re RDR, since you still prefer to comment rather than read first this states:
    ‘Our objective is to deliver standards of professionalism that inspire consumer confidence and build trust so that, in time, financial advice is seen as a profession on
    a par with other professions’

    Got that part now?

    Considering that the ‘other professions’ such as medical, grandfathered their existing staff, even those with no formal qualifications who held high positions and conducted extensive reviews not just in the UK but Europe which concluded CPD, not as ours is now, but on a more stringent level is the professional way forward. Why did we not read all of their countless reports and follow suit?
    We end up the muppets who went the other way yet again.
    Follow the professions you want to emulate instead of doing something different then complaining you arent seen as professional!!

    CPD is not a one moment in time material. 100 hours per year of quality tested CPD which is 100% adviser, knowledge and competence focussed designed to deliver the outcome which is desired.

    More thought should be given to new entrants and what constitutes a good recruit before jumping in with both feet, I do not think anyone has identified ‘good’ to know what it is when it appears.

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