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LIA wants grants to grow under IFAs&#39 feats

The LIA is bidding to secure Government grants for IFAs studying for the

Advanced Financial Planning Certificate but not everyone in the industry

is backing the move.

LIA president Peter Sprung is making a 1m application to the European

social fund to help IFAs working towards professional qualifications.

Public affairs director John Ellis says the LIA hopes that grants can be

secured to fund at least 45 per cent of the costs of AFPC.

But in the era of student loans rather than grants, New Labour is

extremely unlikely to award money to employed people who are often in the

higher earnings bracket, warns Sofa chairman Peter Williams.

He says that, with graduates starting out with debts of up to 12,000 from

loans and overdrafts, it would not be a popular move to give IFAs grants.

“It is extremely unlikely the Government will support this move at a time

when students have to fund their own courses,” says Williams.

Both Sofa and Aifa believe if IFAs should be prepared to fund their own

qualifications.

Aifa director of policy and technical services Fay Goddard says: “IFAs

wanting to be seen as professional should be happy and willing to meet the

costs of the AFPC themselves.”

IFAs themselves are divided over the issue. Some say financial assistance

from the Government would be appreciated while others admit that the

Government is unlikely to back the move.

Berry Birch & Noble chief executive Derek Berry says: “The industry must

fund its own qualifications. Taxpayers have better things to spend their

money on. I cannot see this move being well received.”

But Chase de Vere Investments investment marketing manager Ian Millward

says: “Anything to help IFAs become more professional is a good move. I do

not think IFAs necessarily deserve funding more than anyone else but, if we

can get financial assistance from funds available to us, there is no reason

why we should not apply for them.”

Institute of Financial Planning chief executive Nick Cann says if there

are funds available for financing professional qualifications, then IFAs

should be able to apply. “I think the LIA calling for Government grants is

an excellent move. The Government should support any move to improve the

professional image of IFAs,” he says.

Cann says it costs about 500 for an IFA to get qualified to AFPC level –

around 170 for each subject, including buying books and taking exams.

The Analysts director Tom Kean says: “It can set us back financially to

take the AFPC. It takes hundreds of hours to study and some of this might

be in the firm&#39s time. This is a lot of effort and can take time out of

seeing clients.”

The LIA plans to speak to the Government within the next two months but

admits there are difficulties in presenting its case. Ellis says: “Talking

to the Government will be problematic as I cannot quite see how funding

IFAs would fit with Government policy but it is worthwhile talking to it

and we live in hope.”

However, Ellis believes there may be a way of encouraging the Government

to come up with the money. The key will be focusing on grants to help

graduates.

He says: “We need the emphasis to be on helping younger IFAs. There is

really no point in trying to fund IFAs of 50 and upwards but helping

graduates fresh from university who want to obtain professional

qualifications is a good idea. Consultants say we have a really good chance

of getting European social funding for younger people wanting to take the

AFPC.”

Sofa and Aifa agree that concentrating on younger IFAs and prospective

entrants to the industry could make a more worthwhile case for funding.

Williams says: “It might be more realistic to apply for funding for

graduates laden with debt who want to take professional qualifications.”

Goddard says: “If anyone is applying for Government funding, we would like

to see it directed at new entrants rather than existing practitioners. Aifa

would support Government funding for training graduates.”

Cann says: “This sort of funding would have to be well managed. It should

definitely focus on younger people and help towards the extension of

long-term learning. More established industry members should fund

themselves but, if Government funding encouraged more new entrants to take

professional qualifications, it would benefit consumers in the long run.”

However, Cann points out that the Government and LIA would have to be

careful that the funding was well presented. With many young people

prevented from undertaking further education due to the tuition fees and

living expenses, he warns that any Government move to fund qualifications

in the financial sector would need careful explaining.

“Funding IFAs would have to be carefully presented, otherwise a Government

which will not fund students but gives wads of cash to IFAs would be

laughable to the outside world,” says Cann.

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