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Skill strategy

Simon Ellis has a daunting task ahead of him as he leads the review of the Financial Services Skills Council’s future strategy but he is confident it will be able to regain its licence.

In an interview with Money Marketing, managing director Ellis says his main focus is to work with stakeholders to lead the review from the bottom up. He says the starting point of the review is to gain an understanding of what stakeholders want from a skills council.

He says: “Our first major challenge in this review process is to try to capture the opinions of as many of the different representative groups as we possibly can.

“We cannot cover everybody, but we can cover every sector so what we are trying to do is get representative samples so at the end of the research and in the analysis period we can come up with a view of what our various stakeholders want from a centralised skills agency.”

FSSC stakeholders encompass 34,000 firms with 1.3 million employees, nine specialist sectors, 39 professional bodies, 56 trade associations, four regulators, 12 awarding bodies and 12 regional development agencies.

Ellis says: “It is impossible to please everyone and there are people who say they would rather not see the FSSC stay in place because they have an interest in breaking it up. But everybody I have spoken to recog- nises the need to have something, whether it is called the FSSC or not, and that is because all these different interest groups would like to have a focal point for skills in this sector.”

He is concerned that there may not be a great deal of input from small to medium-sized IFA firms and is urging them to fill out a survey on the FSSC website.

“I am very keen to get input not just from the representative bodies, we are also keen to hear from the networks, the national firms and individual IFAs. We want to hear what they think. I would particularly like to hear their views on the professional standards board – how they think it should be run, should it be independent, should it be FSA-driven? I would also like to understand what people think about the level four qualification.”

Ellis is passionate about maintaining the competitive advantage that the UK financial sector has with the level of knowledge and skills held by its employees.

He says it is unlikely the advantage will be lost over the short term but it is important to recognise that other juris- dictions are looking to catch up and overtake the UK.

He says: “We need to make sure the skills and competencies across the financial services sector continue to be upgraded so we stay at the bleeding edge of intellectual thinking.”

Ellis is adamant that work within the FSSC is continuing on the development of the QCF level four qualification, despite the relicensing “distraction”.

He says: “The QCF level four framework will be in place in time because the FSA has to get it in place in time. The question is how. I would urge IFAs to continue studying and upskilling as a matter of principle.

“Whether the FSSC is the governing body of that framework is not their issue. Their issue is what is the qualification, where do I get it from and how do I go out and get it. Our role in that currently is to assist the FSA and awarding bodies in designing that qualification and putting it into an exam framework.”

Ellis is confident he can develop a strategy that will enable the FSSC to get its licence back at the end of September.

He says: “If I did not think it was achievable, I would not be here. If we come back and find out the whole industry says we hate the whole concept of a centralised agency of any form whatsoever, then we have to represent that opinion. If you do not have clients, then you have got a problem.

“But the very strong indication is that even some of our harshest critics not only recognise the need for something but actually want it. So I am optimistic the need will be affirmed and I am optimistic we will come up with a coherent strategy.”


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