Exams have always been seen as a necessary evil but it is high time that we embraced them wholeheartedly for their passport-like quality to a better industry. Qualifications hold the key to transforming our industry into one with full professional standing and it should be a priority for company principals to ensure their advisers are up to scratch.
Raising the professional standards of the industry remains central to the guiding principles of the RDR but once we have reached the level prescribed (QCF level four), we must not rest on our laurels. Level four is a sensible base for the profession to be constructed on but having reached this milestone we should continue to ensure that we are moving upward and onward – perhaps QCF level five is the next mandatory step?
Whether advisers choose to take the certified route or the chartered path, there are many benefits to standing on the highest tier of qualification. Apart from distinguishing yourself from advisers that have chosen to stay at diploma level, higher qualifications also mean that advisers are more likely to get professional referral introductions. This would lead to new business being easier to come by, which would have a knock-on effect as their time would be less under the cosh from commercial pressures so they could devote themselves further to quality advice.
For too long, we have been laden with a legacy of misselling skewing the reputation of a profession where the occasional bad apple is certainly the exception, not the rule. This has led to us not starting on a level playing field in comparison with other industries.
The RDR will put us back to square one and it is from this point that we need to spring forward and reinvigorate the industry to raise itself to a standard we can all be proud of.
The key with qualifications is to start off as young as possible. It can only be good for the industry to have bright young professionals coming through the ranks, highly qualified at a relatively youthful age.
Going one step further, surely the holy grail of our profession would be self-regulation, such as lawyers with the Law Society and accountants with the Association of Chartered Accountants.
This would give the industry the reputation that it deserves as long as we keep up the high standards of professionalism.
Some advisers might not make this exacting standard but to move the profession forward, it is a necessary adjustment. Advisers who want to stay one step ahead should look to invest in training staff up to the highest level, increasing the profession’s reputation and benefiting clients.
Sheriar Bradbury is managing director of Bradbury Hamliton