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Shape the profession

April will bring us the updated views from the FSA on feedback to the discussion paper on the retail distribution review.

Of course, much has been happening in the interim to explore the potential for change. Earlier this month, the “Edinburgh Declaration” was issued, which is a joint statement of intent from the CII, the Securities and Investment Institute, the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland and the IFP to better shape the professional landscape.

This will lead to greater clarification for the practitioner and the consumer alike and while it would be foolhardy at this stage to expect miracles overnight, there is a definite commitment to improve the current scenario.

Our respective responses (and those by the rest of the industry) to the FSA’s RDR discussion paper demonstrate a genuine desire for an industry-led solution in which professional bodies play a significant role.

We are committed to a series of measures across three key areas – tackling the “alphabet soup” of qualifications, improving professional standards and ethics and developing higher, minimum qualifications for the retail financial sector.

One of the main challenges facing us all is how we introduce a step change in benchmark qualification levels and motivate the market to step up to the plate.

Clearly, the current approach has not worked as many still resist the examination world, often relying too heavily on their experience which, while valuable, is only one strand of the professionalism to which many others aspire. When we consider that 80 per cent of advisers have not moved beyond the current benchmark qualification, the scale of the task should not be underestimated.

A more pragmatic approach to the current structure needs to be developed to show those who have not yet made the step that it is worthwhile doing so, not just from an academic point of view but also from a commercial one. An adviser needs to be confident that not only will they be doing a better job for their clients and adding more value to their proposition but at the same time putting themselves in a position to earn more money. That is the motivation that most can sign up to.

Our goal at the IFP is to ensure that there is a clearly defined career path in place for financial planning professionals at all stages in their career. There is focus on the undergraduate student, the paraplanner as well as the practicing financial planner to clarify the competencies required to do the job which will match knowledge, abilities and prof-essional skills required.

The IFP can play a leading role in helping to shape the professional environment across financial services in the UK.

Nick Cann is chief executive of the IFP

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