The qualification deadline set by the Mortgage Code Compliance Board for advisers is just over four months away but over half of advisers have not yet sat the exams.
The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders' Association, which released this statistic, says it shows ignorance and apathy on qualifications.
But the MCCB claims that around 80,000 advisers have paid and registered for the exams and have therefore shown clear intention of qualifying.
The MCCB set the qualification deadline in December last year. The minimum qualification for advisers is a pass in all three Cemap papers, a Maq or a Cemap bridge paper, depending on an adviser's previous qualifications.
At the start of August, Imla released its own analysis of the qualification process, saying 47,000 advisers still needed to sit exams.
According to the MCCB, only 2,652 advisers qualified in the month from mid-April to mid-May and 1,239 in the month and a half following mid-May to the start of July.
MCCB head of communications Brad Baker insists that the board is not concerned. He says: “There has been significant progress made and the fact that 80,000 have registered for exams shows there is no apathy.”
But Imla spokesman James Mayne says: “From the people I have spoken to in the past three months,I think they do have the intention of doing the exams but have not got round to it. That is where the apathy is coming in.”
Although he expects an increase in advisers sitting exams in September and October, they are looking at a shortfall. “The customer will lose out,” he says.
According to Imla, advisers are not taking the exams because they are confused about regulatory changes, concerned about going back to formal study or may simply be over-confident, hoping to wing it in exams.
But there are many companies which take the MCCB requirements seriously. London & Country Mortgages has encouraged its advisers to get their qualifications. The company's mortgage specialist David Hollingworth says: “We have pre-empted the MCCB initiative.”
The firm has a supervisory system that looks after trainees and provides learning aids such as CD-Roms for advisers taking exams. The result is that all employees who have worked for the company for more than nine months are fully qualified.
It also seems that the people who deal with mortgage advice regularly have not found the exam papers challenging. Savills Private Finance consultant Mark Hodges took the Cemap bridge paper in July and says: “I found it quite straightforward. I spent around 25 hours studying for it.”
The company has 50 mortgage advisers and 49 are qualified.
Finance 4 Women co-founder Fiona Sharp also found the paper relatively simple. She says she rec-orded her revision on to a tape and listened to it on the way to work. Two of the company's advisers are preparing for exams in September. Catherine Haines is one of them and says she will leave time to revise but feels confident.
But the fact remains that over half of the industry's advisers have not qualified.
A small clue to this puzzle may be provided by the MCCB's July report into the process. The report says the board's recent registration renewal has seen a significant number of firms indicating they will no longer give advice but merely information on mortgages. IFAs providing only information do not need to be qualified.
Baker says the MCCB is looking into these figures, and insists “there will not be a huge migration to information provision”. But some experienced IFAs think otherwise.
Franklins Financial Services is a small company with all four mortgage advisers qualified. Senior partner Neil Franklin thinks that IFAs who advise on a range of issues need to start specialising and that these exams are a way of rooting out part-time mortgage advisers.
He says: “I think an awful lot of people will drop out from the mortgage industry while those who qualify will specialise in mortgages.”
Savills Private Finance director Mark Harris, comments: “I think it is about specialisation. We have found we are picking up a lot of business because other IFAs are passing work on to us.”