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Qualification debate rages on

Higher qualifications are now widely regarded as an inevitable outcome of the RDR and the focus has shifted to what will be introduced and how.

Last week saw Sesame firing up the debate around the requirements for advisers wishing to stay in the industry for the long haul and those planning to retire in the near future.

Sesame head of learning Paul Dawson says advisers planning to retire in the next 10 years should not be forced to achieve a diploma equivalent qualification.

He believes they should only have to pass a single financial planning exam, the Chartered Insurance Institute¹s AF5 or equivalent, which forms one part of the CII¹s advanced diploma qualification.

But Sesame says that all other advisers in the UK should be required to achieve a QCA level 4 qualification by June 2013.

By 2018, any adviser who has not reached level 4 would have to leave the industry.

Dawson says: “Some people may disagree with these dates, claiming they are too far away but I believe it is important, and only fair, for advisers that have served their profession well to have the opportunity to manage the exit from their business in an orderly manner.”

Lowes Financial Management managing director Ian Lowes says while the industry should avoid forcing advisers into early retirement, a 10-year time frame is too long.

He says: “To have a situation where advisers can operate for another 10 years with only one exam is not in the spirit of what we are trying to achieve.”

The ifs School of Finance is also venturing into the fray with the launch of a new qualification in advanced financial advice, benchmarked to QCA level 4.

It says the Diploma for Financial Advisers will place a greater focus on the analysis, evaluation and presentation of information, rather than the testing of technical knowledge.

The ifs School of Finance says a key part of the qualification involves continuous assessment based on the development of research analysis and presentation skills, as well as a final assessment based on a fact-find sent out to candidates before their exam.

It adds that the qualification is more practical and relevant to real-life situations than anything available from other awarding bodies at an equivalent level and will meet an industry need, irrespective of the outcomes of the RDR.

The qualification will be available to advisers at the end of this year.

Head of financial regulation Mark Roberts says: “We have spoken at length to all those who took part in the pilot process and have built up a detailed picture of what works best. This is a truly industry-led qualification, meeting the needs of the industry and, more importantly, the needs of the consumer.”

Compliance manager Linda Preston-Todd, who took part in the pilot program, adds: “From the consumer¹s perspective it¹s imperative that they receive accurate information. If advisers have the skills this qualification is seeking to develop and test, then complaints and mis-selling can be avoided.
Most exams don¹t test these specific areas, it¹s long overdue.”

Perhaps the CII will be given a run for its money.


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