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Positive aspects

Spring is my favourite season. The first warm rays of sunshine and the profusion of colour from the spring flowers lift my spirits – and people smile more. So, while in a springtime mood, I want to take a more optimistic view of the world of financial services and talk about something positive.

Here at the Personal Finance Society, we are surrounded by achievement. People achieving the highest echelons of professionalism as chartered financial planners, firms achieving chartered status and individuals achieving the Chartered Insurance Institute’s diploma in financial planning ahead of the FSA deadline for higher qualifications.

This year, in recognition of the sterling efforts of our members, we are launching a suite of awards, including two to recognise excellence among those that have achieved chart- ered status.

There will be six awards – chartered financial planner of the year (individual), chartered financial planners firm of the year, highest achiever in the CII advanced diploma in financial planning, highest achiever in the CII diploma in financial planning, Citizens Advice money planner of the year and the John Ellis award.

I would like to reflect back to 2006 when, with the agreement of the Privy Council, the CII introduced chartered financial planner status.

The research conducted at the time indicated that consumers have a much better understanding of “chartered” as a practising qualification than they do of any other financial qualification.

Eighty-eight per cent of respondents were aware that someone who uses the term chartered had completed professional exams and 81 per cent said they would have more confidence in advice from someone who is chartered than someone who is not.

This was particularly high among those aged 65-plus – 86 per cent – and those who were retired or working part-time.

Today, over 1,600 financial advisers have qualified as chartered financial planners and over 200 firms have corporate chartered status.

We will shortly be conducting further research to see how consumers view chartered status following the recent economic downturn and the availability of “chartered” financial advice.

However, professionalism is not just about academic achievement – all PFS members are required to adhere to a code of ethics and conduct and demonstrate continued professional development.

Ethical behaviour in particular protects the profession and the public interest. It is the hallmark of a mature profession.

The arguments for placing greater emphasis on professional ethics are clear and unequivocal. But a professional approach is not just about individuals meeting standards, it is about a common set of standards owned by the profession and which all those within it endeavour to live up to.

We need to work towards this common goal so that achievement is more than academic but has to incorporate the highest standard of conduct – that which we expect and demand of our chartered members.

Fay Goddard is chief executive at the PFS

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