Skandia has thrown its support behind the Association of Independent Financial Advisers’ calls for the FSA to drop its higher-qualification requirements for existing advisers under the RDR.
Last week, Money Marketing revealed that Aifa is calling for the FSA to drop the requirements or face a judicial review. Aifa director general Chris Cummings says the FSA should be encouraging IFAs to meet higher professional standards with regulatory incentives rather than imposing an “arbitrary cliff edge”.
He says: “The IFA sector has gone further than any other part of the industry in terms of improving professionalism. If there is a good commercial reason for advisers to get the qualification, then they will. What we have to avoid is an arbitrary date that leads to the closure of good firms.”
Skandia chief development officer Peter Mann says he “whole-heartedly” supports Aifa’s stance on the issue.
He says any new standards must be introduced in a way that allows advisers to continue to run their businesses.
Mann says: “Increased professionalism within the advice sector is very important for its future success but it is also important that any new standards are introduced in a controlled way so that advisers are able to gain higher qualifications while continuing to operate a profitable business.”
He says, without the RDR deadlines in place, there will be a natural movement towards higher qualifications that does not risk a significant adviser fallout resulting from “unrealistic deadlines”.
Mann adds: “It is in no one’s interests to drive good advisers out of the market by imposing unrealistic deadlines. Many advisers are already highly qualified and many more were voluntarily gaining higher qualifications before the RDR was thought of.
“Higher qualifications are nothing to fear for the majority of advisers and we would support more positive incentives such as regulatory dividends to encourage progress in the right direction. Chris’s perspective on the marketplace is insightful and correct. I support whole-heartedly the stance that Aifa is taking.”
But the Association of British Insurers has hit back at Aifa’s call, arguing that the increased qualification requirements are an essential part of the RDR. A spokesman says: “The ABI believes all full financial advisers must reach QCF level four by 2012. This is a central part of the RDR and vital in improving consumer trust in financial advice and the financial services industry in general.”