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Higher ground

The RDR rules may be a stepping stone to a higher minimum level

In addition to the willing-ness to embrace change, one of the attributes of advisers who will survive and thrive in the future is the ability to look beyond the next couple of years.

The implementation of the new RDR rules poses a danger to those advisers who are unable to meet the 2012 deadline. A bigger risk exists to those who are so fixated on this one deadline that they fail to see what is coming along next.

Looking specifically at qualifications, I am becoming increasingly convinced that QCF level four at the end of 2012 is merely a stepping stone to a higher minimum requirement.

Several factors are driving this expectation.

Last year, the Financial Services Consumer Panel suggested that QCF level five should be the new minimum level and, more recently, Aifa introduced a QCF level five exam.

Aifa claims that the reason for setting its new exam at a higher than required level was to future-proof it against any additional qualification requirements that may emerge.

The recent appointment of Trevor Matthews as chairman of the Financial Services Skills Council appears to be the final nail in the coffin of these higher-qualification standards remaining at level four. Now in this influential position, Trevor has called in the past for the minimum qualification level to be set at QCF level six, equivalent to chartered status.

With parts of the adviser community already angry about being dragged back into the classroom at such an advanced stage of their careers, the prospect of having to go beyond diploma level is unlikely to be welcomed with open arms.

However, once again, this will not be an overnight change. Just like the increase from certificate to diploma level, the writing will be on the wall for years.

I am broadly supportive of the need to demonstrate tested competence through the acquisition of higher level professional qualifications. These need to be acquired in combination with relevant experience and the proper application of ethical standards of good behaviour in order to make a real difference to consumer outcomes. It would be wrong to suggest that exams alone make for a better adviser.

I was recently challenged by another adviser to cite an example of empirical evidence that higher qualifications result in better outcomes.

I discovered a study carried out by the Centre for Child Care Employment at the University of California. This study found that the use of teachers with degree -level qualifications resulted in better developmental outcomes for children. It is not a huge leap to apply findings from teaching to financial advice.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice


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