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FSA slammed over exam alternatives

The FSA’s retail distribution review proposals for oral assessments have come under fire for not going far enough in offering a full work-based assessment as an alternative to exams.

SimplyBiz chairman Ken Davy says the FSA’s latest RDR consultation paper has failed to properly address the issue of how older advisers can reach the new benchmark.

He says: “This attempt by the FSA to address the issue of older, more experienced advisers will fall short of what is required. In no sense is it on-the-job testing, it is simply having an oral examination. I believe we need a much more pragmatic approach.”

While Davy says SimplyBiz supports the RDR’s drive to higher professional standards with its own new model business academy, he is disappointed to see no provision for experienced advisers to continue to work under supervision if they do not meet the benchmark qualification.

He says: “It is a disgraceful omission. It seems nonsensical that a 22-year-old with no experience who passes the exam will be able to work unsupervised but somebody with 20-30 years experience will not be able to advise clients even under supervision unless they meet the qualification standard.”

Davy’s criticisms echo those of Sesame chief executive Ivan Martin that alternative assessments such as oral exams to reach the benchmark qualification will not “recognise the wealth of knowledge, skills and experience” within the profession. Martin says: “The regulator’s concession of an oral examination falls short of what we feel is required. We will be maintaining our campaign for practical and workable solutions.”

But the Association of Independent Financial Advisers is optimistic about the RDR proposals. Director general Chris Cummings says: “The decision to allow a form of work-based alternative assessments up to 2012 will mean that existing advisers will not be forced from the industry.

“It was important that a rigorous but non-examination-based assessment of qualification level 4 competence was available in order to maintain access to advice.”

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