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Making the grade

I cannot remember who first suggested we all have a book in us but I would argue that this kind of encouragement can lead to some fairly turgid reads. The same kind of problem presents itself when people take on roles for which they are ill suited.

The recent debacle at the Treasury select committee underlined that research on your inquisitors is essential and taking on trade issues dilutes efforts to be recognised as a professional body.

I was baffled as to why the Institute of Financial Planning was there. Aifa, I can understand, but its apparent lack of preparation was either due to the view that such an appearance was a waste of time or it has no confidence in its current position.

As to Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban and the McDonald’s issue, the qualifications of all professions are mapped to a grid by the body called Ofqual.

The qualifications and credit framework is a structure that illustrates how the different types of qualifications interrelate and allows credit from assessments to be transferred flexibly between qualifications. Its purpose is to enable the public to determine how qualified people are from a range of professions and vocations.

So when Mr Hoban made the connection between McDonald’s and the FPC, he was simply reading from the grid at level three.

His mistake was to ignore that RDR is at level four and level three is a lobbying issue regarding simplified advice. His intervention has put paid to low-cost advice where level three would have got it off and going. When Sofa conducted the omnibus research as part of the campaign to obtain chartered status, we found that the public expect advisers to be tested and qualified to the level of a university degree.

The key word here is “tested”. The public want people to be checked and if a person has learnt by experience and not exams, that should not prevent them being tested to level four as required by the FSA. Even then, that will not raise it to the assumed level (that is, that which is assumed by the public) so level six will be the next step for many but not all.

The exam process is never perfect but, to borrow from Woody Allen, it is the least imperfect method of getting you where you want to go.

Testing on the job creates two problems. If a person passes, there is no issue but if they fail, can they retain their competent status? Then there is the cost issue as you need interviewers who are qualified to the right level and able to interrogate the candidates.

A person’s proximity to retirement is irrelevant and to suggest older people cannot pass exams is not borne out in reality. Those MPs and, to some extent, Mark Hoban should have had to complete some CPD before they spoke. Instead, they relied on the testimony of those with vested interests – never a good idea, whether they are a candidate, regulator or exam provider.

Getting back to the books, I came across an unexpected item this week, a business book with a sense of humour. Rare Business is written by a former colleague of mine, Adrian Swinscoe. Perhaps that’s just what we need, improvement with humour. It is much better than all this depressing stuff and there is no mention of the RDR. That alone must be a plus point.

Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners

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