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PFS to consult on exams approach after industry backlash

The Personal Finance Society is planning to consult with members of the broader training community to ascertain the best way forward with training and exam delivery.

As the Chartered Insurance Institute reversed its position on forcing the combined purchase of its exam and revision packages last week following industry criticism, PFS chief executive Keith Richards says the CII failed to appreciate the nuances of the various sectors its qualifications refer to.

On 2 January, the CII chose to introduce a new “all-inclusive” unit of exam, study guide and online study tool, RevisionMate, effectively stripping advisers of choice over how they wish to learn and the resources they use for doing so.

The move was widely criticised by advisers and alternative providers of learning and revision materials, with Bespoke Training Solutions founder and chartered financial planner

Luiza Todd accusing the CII of anti-competitive behaviour.

She says: “The time you realised was when you went to try and book a CII exam and it wouldn’t let you do so unless you paid for their entire package.”

Poll: Was the CII right to U-turn on its decision to introduce ‘all-inclusive’ exam packages?

But the CII has since recognised its move may have been premature and will now reinstate the opportunity for exams and learning materials to be purchased separately, while it consults with the broader market and key stakeholders.

The U-turn will affect all financial adviser units that were affected by the changes earlier this month.

CII learning and assessment director Simon Graham says: “We have set aside the coming months for broader consultations. Meanwhile, the option to purchase the respective exam/assessments alongside the new enhanced combined packages will be reinstated by the end of February, in plenty of time to enter for the April exam session.”

Richards says bundling payments for exam and learning materials is common practice by educators in many professional sectors.

But he adds that while it might suit the majority of candidates, and discounts can be offered with combined packages, there will still be those who prefer using third party materials.

He says: “What was missed here was the percentage that use [independent] training companies and will design their own learning material. The CII just had not really recognised that impact and realises that it should have.

“What is clearly coming out is that people’s different learning styles are really important; using the CII materials may be a logical route for many but there are others whose learning style is different. What the training providers can help some people achieve is an increased chance of passing.

“We have to recognise that, so we will look at engaging many of the training organisations and engaging more closely with us on what ultimately is everyone’s joint objective of helping the market continue to raise professional standards.”

CII to launch pension transfers qualification

According to the CII’s 2016 report and accounts, qualifications were
responsible for £12.7m of operating income, up from £11.8m in 2015.

Elsewhere the level of income from educational activity – comprising publications and training courses, among other materials – was in decline, accounting for £11.9m in 2015 and £11.4m in 2016.

In its online blog, Brand Financial Training says the CII’s move was a “deviation from its charter”, saying it undermines its position as advocate to the adviser community.

“We could all just shrug our shoulders, or we can stand up collectively and voice our views on the changes made by our professional body. Whether you are an individual exam candidate, a learning provider, an advisory firm or another business in financial services, this affects all of us […] Brand Financial Training firmly supports CII exam candidates having freedom of choice.”

Chase de Vere chartered financial planner Patrick Connolly says he was disappointed that communication of the issue was not clearer, especially with his firm representing 200-plus advisers sitting multiple exams with the CII.

CanScot partner Robert Reid adds: “The CII book is the one that is based around the syllabus. The problem is, if you buy an independent textbook and it doesn’t cover the right syllabus, who are you going to shout at?

“While the CII books are all checked and vetted, who is responsible for the gap analysis?” he notes. “It falls to the individual using them to make sure they are up to scratch, but if they fail their exam, they cannot blame the book.

“I think they are designed to be used as supplementary materials anyway, possibly written in a different style to make them easier to read, but my concern is over who is accrediting the materials.”


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There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. The C.I.I. has always been a shameless profiteer so this comes as no surprise.

    I parted company with them after achieving Chartered status only to find that, the more qualified one becomes, the higher their subscription cost was.

    How is it, I asked them, that, after achieving higher qualifications (and, by the way, paying you not inconsiderable sums on the way to those qualifications), I am rewarded with what is, in essence, a ‘fine’ for my endeavours.

    They, of course were totally immutable in the face of this question.

    Then the Institute has the brass neck to claim they are ‘supporting’ adviser development. Were that truly the case, surely fees would REDUCE for higher qualifications.

    The C.I.I.s stranglehold on this market has turned it into a cosy ‘edu-cartel’ and it’s high time they faced some proper competition.

  2. The problem with the CII manuals is that they are written as reference manuals rather than as study material. I always tell delegates on my courses that they don’t need to know everything in the book to pass. What I try to do is identify what they need to know .

    I think this issue arises because, quite rightly, the people who write the manuals are not allowed to talk to the people who set the exams. The manual writers follow the syllabus order which is not necessarily the best way to learn.

    If the PFS is going to review the exam structure I would suggest a radical approach. Most individuals’ lives can be split into two phases: accumulating wealth and assets, then drawing from these in later life. Why not structure the exams around those two phases rather than having separate investment and pension exams

  3. It seems that the cost of learning is ignored by IFA’s, and the benefit of learning missed – despite hefty commission and percentage fees to be made. Interestingly I joined the Institute of Financial Planning IFP(now sponsored by Sub Standard Life and purchased CISI)- in 1975. Their Certified Financial Planning Certificate (CFP) has no inherent examination- and relies on the basis of the CII/PFS, and their IFP “Plan”, through their certificate which is purchased along with some other “options” ISO2000 – and their like. In my opinion passing of the exam depends on who you know rather than what you know. This account sfor the quick influx of CFP licences (paid for each year) like an American University Degree ? It is more propaganda than competent examination process as it is conducted by the appointed few and diluted accordingly. Sub Standard life were at the forefront of promoting the “IFA”, status the circular promotion of a White pound on a Blue Background. What is its worth ? The CII has some way to go but it does have some significant content. It is committed and consistent, and in my opinion has worth.

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