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Road to 2012

Much of the focus following the publication of the retail distribution review feedback report has probably been in the wrong areas. Instead of looking at the positives, some commentators have going round in ever decreasing circles of ranting and unhelpful contributions. This simply moves everybody backwards or at best sideways.

There are still challenges facing everybody within financial services. Aside from the economy, which is impossible to control and certainly to predict, the biggest challenge is probably whether businesses of all shapes and size are likely to be able to transition to the fee-based financial planning model.

Will the names we recognise now still be the leading suppliers of financial services and financial planning in four years time?

Passing the exams and meeting the requirements of a revised QCA level 4 will be easy compared with other challenges. Some advisers will quit and frankly, in a number of cases, that will be a good thing. Others will make the step upwards and organisations such as the Institute of Financial Planning will be there to help them.

Equally, we must prepare an effective entry route into the profession.

The career path of a financial planner needs to be articulated. The IFP is extending its work with Manchester Metropolitan University and at least two others in 2009 to build on the solid foundations that have been laid.

The provider sector, via Norwich Union and Seven Investment Management, has seen the value in supporting specific graduate development as opposed to random spending on uncoordinated initiatives. With strong brands such as these being involved, significant opportunities will soon spread to other universities.

The Financial Services Skills Council has the brief to define the competencies required for an adviser, so the QCA level can be determined. The IFP is committed to helping with this project, having already defined the financial planner competencies that frame the certified financial planner competency profile.

This undoubtedly deals with the challenge that professionalism is not just about examinations. It proves that there needs to be the right balance between knowledge, skills and behaviours.

The true professional will demonstrate to clients the right balance between their knowledge and their experience. They will keep up to date with a robust and relevant CPD programme and also be part of an ethical code of conduct that not only proves their fiduciary responsibility but also opens them up to personal challenge if they have abused their position. It is not an adviser who has passed all the examinations that were ever set and it is not the adviser sat with his FPC 1, 2 and 3 with 30 years experience.

Take time over the Christmas break to think through where you want to be by the end of 2012. That is the goal for us all to work towards. Happy Christmas to all IFP members and those that will join them in the next four years.

Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning

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