Ever since the RDR lifted the minimum qualification for advisers to QCF level four at the end of 2012 there has been talk of level six eventually becoming the new benchmark.
The compulsory requirement has not changed since and some say any potential increase is a long way off. However, many advisers have still opted to go beyond the minimum standard to achieve chartered status.
So what should new entrants think about doing? Is it worth getting the higher qualification under their belts straight away, while they are still in exam mode? Or should they concentrate on getting qualified to a basic level and honing their craft?
The Chartered Insurance Institute director of financial services and insurance markets Steve Jenkins says: “If one is talking to prospective advisers who have yet to join the sector or someone thinking of a career in financial planning, before they even think about level four or level six they need to ask themselves: what kind of environment do I want to work in?
“If it’s an SME in the provinces it might be the best thing to get qualified to level four, then gain experience on the job and study for level six at the same time. But if you’re working in a high end wealth management firm in central London, where all your peers are chartered, it might be best working towards that.
“The pace at which you qualify will run parallel with the environment you work in. Get to the level you need to get to and do it with the support of your employer.”
Jenkins also highlights the fact a lot of the bigger financial services firms have organised career structures in place that can develop people early on, from admin positions or paraplanning through to becoming advisers.
Recruitment consultant Keillar Resourcing managing director Harris Keillar noticed a rush to get level six qualified just after the RDR but says he has not seen as much activity from advisers since. However, it is a different story for paraplanners.
He says: “I’m a believer in people taking additional qualifications but it really does depend. With advisers, some employers will say they are only looking for someone chartered as they are a chartered firm, but I don’t think the general public are clamouring for advisers to be chartered as they hope anyone they see will have a reasonable grasp of what is required.
“It’s different for paraplanners as being chartered is one way for them to differentiate themselves from ‘ordinary’ paraplanners.”
So what advice does a chartered financial planner have for today’s new recruits? Page Russell director Tim Page thinks there is a real dilemma.
He says: “Getting a level six qualification is a good way to differentiate yourself but there might be the fear in a potential employer that you expect to earn more than they want to pay. In which case candidates run the risk of being over-qualified. Having said that, if someone has gone to the trouble of getting themselves qualified using their own resources, that has to be a big plus on a CV.”
Page adds it costs advice firms a lot of money to train someone, so the pressure to get them earning to repay that investment is huge. Given that pressure, it makes sense for new recruits to focus on what they enjoy and let this shape their career path. “The key is for someone to identify whether they prefer relationship management or technical analysis and go from there,” says Page.
Chris Daems, director, Cervello Financial Planning
Qualification level is important when taking on a new adviser but we also consider whether they would work well with a team, what additional skills they can bring and whether they will fill a niche knowledge gap.
Saying that, the minimum level of qualification will continue to increase. With this in mind, any financial planning professional should be working their way to a level six standard to ensure they are ahead of the game when the next tranche of changes inevitably occur.