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Ring of competence

Tenet has welcomed the FSA’s willingness to recognise both the value and potential risk of losing experienced advisers following its proposal to introduce QCF level four work-based assessments. The group believes that this is a positive and pragmatic approach, even though the detail is still vague at this time.

Tenet believes, however, that a more effective outcome could be better achieved through a competency-based enhanced supervisory structure which would include a prescribed personal professional development programme and competency- based testing to QCF level four. This would give advisers a more practical route to achieving and maintaining increased professional standards and allow the regulator to audit accordingly.

Effectively, this would mean that the supervision, monit-oring and development of the required competency stand-ards could be reviewed by the FSA as part of a firm’s Arrow visit or themed review, providing ongoing competency development, focus and behavioural change.

This would not, however, be a soft option and any IFA wanting to continue advising after 2012 would be wise to start studying for higher qualifications now. An alternative option would be to allow advisers to demonstrate their competence on the job through observation and competency-based testing.

Naturally, only firms authorised by the FSA, who could meet a required standard of supervisory structure, could offer such a solution. Logically, networks and nationals already have the appropriate infrastructures in place to facilitate such a solution and could adapt without too much additional cost. Big directly authorised firms with a minimum level of internal resource and infrastructure could also provide this solution, so it is certainly not suggested that the opportunity would be exclusive to a specific sector of the market.

Authorisation for enhanced QCF level four supervision would have to satisfy an agreed standard, as set by the FSA or new professional body.

Supporting a structured ongoing development programme is something that is already central to most big distribution groups, often using technology as an effective enabler. Systems such as the Chartered Insurance Institute’s online education, assessment and competence solution, for example, are already used to aid advisers in maintaining their comp- etence and to comply with professional requirements.

Many bigger groups additionally offer some form of professional development programme or academy, which will be able to align with the FSA’s qualification standards as well as offering discounts on a variety of study materials and support.

Keith Richards is distribution and development director at Tenet

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