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Going for the gold standard

Bill Tomlin, director of recruitment consultants Verridian, asks whether chartered or certified is going to become the minimum standard required for advisers

In the wake of compulsory attainment of level four diploma status as well as ongoing continuing professional development to stay in business, the financial advice industry is embracing a new way of working. But as the dust settles, a new question is being raised about the progression to chartered status, should it be the minimum industry standard?

According to data from the CII, a total of 3,471 people held the chartered qualification on 28 January 2013, representing a rise of 644 people year-on-year. This is the largest yearly rise in the Chartered qualification since the launch for individuals in 2005.

Chartered status is widely accepted as the gold standard qualification for financial advisers. Those at the forefront of recruitment are seeing many clients insist on chartered status as a primary requirement.

With the number of people achieving the status and leading firms only working with those that are chartered, the industry seems firmly set on its course. However, a number of advisers are not of the same opinion.

On the other side of the fence, a number of advisers see the status as excessive. According to a recent discussion forum, one commentator said:

“The trouble is that there are a very large number of advisers, in fact probably the majority of advisers, who not only strongly objected to being forced through to what they see as a completely unnecessary qualification at level four, but will also feel that any further compulsory qualifications in their case are entirely unnecessary, bordering on victimisation.”

Advisers could feel pressured, even forced into chartered status, as the industry looks for greater standards, but this still begs the question about whether advisers feel it’s necessary to go beyond level four?

The majority have a great deal of experience, a long-standing customer base and the expertise to keep abreast of industry changes and legislation. Customers also understand the change in fee structure and so are looking much more closely at the adviser and questioning the value they receive, as well as the return on investment.

As another commentator highlighted: “A recent ‘prospect’s’ (assuming it wasn’t a mystery shopper) first question to a colleague of mine was, “Are you a chartered adviser?” He isn’t yet and is working towards it which he informed the individual, to which she replied thank you (but no thanks) and the enquiry went no further.”

I firmly believe that many (customers and employers) will select their advisers and employees based on their qualifications as well as their experience in a marketplace which is seeing a shift as seismic as polarisation caused in the late eighties.

It seems logical that the next minimum standard will be chartered. Institutions are demanding the status, as well as savvy consumers. We now need to accept this fait accompli and identify a tool that supports each adviser – not only on the route to chartered, but with CPD.

The work of the CII, PFS and IFP has been at the forefront of the ongoing development of a professional career path for financial advisers, and we must now embrace these changes, placing everyone in a learning frame of mind, which I believe will help improve the professionalism and reputation of financial advisers further.

Bill Tomlin is director of Verridian


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