Twice a year, I get the opportunity to join up with 30 countries from around the world as an affiliate of the Financial Planning Standards Board’s council.
There are actually 23 country affiliates of the FPSB council and now in the region of 125,000 certified financial planning professionals around the world. At this meeting there has been a very strong focus on what is happening with regulation around the world at a time when the financial planning community is grappling with building up or re-establishing trust with consumers worldwide.
Regulation is at the heart of this, as are the professional standards that we have been debating and agreeing all week. It is ironic that a time when there is a need for higher standards and an agenda of change that the UK market is once again looking to influence a reduction in standards.
What has become more evident to me as these debates continue is the need for a proper definition of the roles that we are asking people to do and then backing these up with a proper body of knowledge and skills to do the job. Much has been made of experience being sufficient and while it is clearly a cornerstone of professionalism, it is not the only requirement.
Once job roles have been properly defined, which is something that has not been done yet, it will be easier to align examination requirements, experience requirements, education requirements and professional skills.
At the moment, the UK is assuming that all advisers do the same job, which is clearly not the case.
It is possible that certain roles need a lesser level of qualifications but until those roles are defined, everybody has the same journey to follow.
It is right that those that are dealing with complex matters for clients need to achieve higher standards.
The CFP professionals around the world are being tested at about the level of QCF level six, which is what the competency profiling and job analysis of these roles confirms.
The IFP will be testing this in the UK at the end of 2009 so we can ensure that advisers and students are able to follow a relevant career path to achieve their outcome of being a professional financial planner.
Hearing about the regulation in other parts of the world showed that while the challenges to the UK market are huge, they are equally high in Australia where commission will be banned in July 2012.
Interestingly, the Financial Planning Association in Australia has received strong support and also an increase in membership as good advisers want to stay ahead of the curve.
The US and Canada are also facing tougher regulation and countries such as New Zealand are awaiting regulation for the first time.
In the UK, the biggest challenge is the business transition and change management that is required to ensure that there is still a business around in 2013 that is going to deliver profits for the shareholders.
The qualification issue is really important and alternative solutions are being investigated but there is no getting away from the fact that these standards do need to be increased.
Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning