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Facing up to Solla’s version of Alan Sugar

My five years are up. Up until now I have been submitting relevant CPD every year but now I am having to completely reapply for my Later Life Adviser Accreditation with the Society of Later Life Advisers.

That means getting a lot of ducks in a row for the submission and this week is the interview, where I am expected to talk through a case study for 45 minutes and then about how I operate in the later life market for another 45 minutes.

There is a minimum exam requirement, that goes without saying, but the process is really a measure of soft skills in dealing with some of the most vulnerable in society.

Soft skills are rarely tested or measured in the world of advice. There is umpteen written or multiple-choice-based exams that measure technical knowledge and generate a lot of revenue for the exam bodies. Then there is the annual regulatory requirement to obtain a Statement of Professional Standing.

This requires a certain amount of structured CPD to be completed which, as the title suggests, is a measurement of maintaining professionalism via ongoing learning. Both these measures can be completed in silence.

At the other end of the spectrum there is the argument that people buy people, so there is a lot to be said for how soft skills could be measured by how much money an adviser makes.

In a regulated environment, excellent interpersonal skills should lead to excellent outcomes and therefore excellent levels of revenue.

But how about the need to not only have exams, your SPS and structured CPD specific to the type of client, but also having to demonstrate this verbally to Solla’s version of Alan Sugar and his sidekicks who might have possibly heard enough rubbish for one day by the time I see him?

Many would say it is another load of red tape we could all do without. And, yes, I have been thinking that in rifling through my ducks. But greater outcomes are achieved without a doubt.

Older people really could do without a load of technical jargon from the over-conscientious technical adviser on the one hand. They could also do without a friendly adviser reading all the wrong signals on the other.

The accreditation process is one way to garner the high level of trust that the most vulnerable in society deserve.

In a world of fake news and reviews it is hard to take VouchedFor-type sites and even genuine client testimonials at the face value they may in fact deserve.

Competitions to earn awards are entered into and, in some cases, heavily invested in. Great bragging rights for the winners but the achievement may well be far removed from daily practice.

And so it is either back to asking to be referred to someone who has demonstrated credibility or be able tap into independent bodies like Solla that undertake the rigorous testing I have described.

Certainly this has begun to resonate with private client solicitors and trusted bodies such as Which?. Some of those who look for advice can look after themselves; others are better off in only dealing with those that make the final round.

Mel Kenny is a chartered financial planner at Radcliffe & Newlands

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