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The professionals

The release of the profession-alism paper by the FSA has helped clarify matters for advisers and potential accredited bodies. The Institute of Financial Planning will apply within the guidelines and is confident it meets the criteria set out. There will be no further confirmation of which organisations have been successful until the second quarter of 2011 but we are continuing to make progress on delivering the support advisers and paraplanners need ahead of the implementation dates.

All investment advisers will have to adhere to these new professional standards requirements and make an annual declaration to an accredited body. A valid statement of professional standing is also required or advisers risk being reported to the FSA. Consideration must therefore be given as to which accredited body is most relevant for their needs.

There is certainly more accountability for the individual, and record-keeping and planning will be key. Before then, all must meet the new QCF level four qualification requirements or ensure that appropriate gap-filling has been completed, bridging individuals from their existing level four to the new standards.

It is inevitable that different organisations will provide a range of solutions and strategies over the next few years to help advisers and firms. Some will be more effective and relevant than others.

Some advisers are already confused by the messages they are receiving, particularly in the area of gap-filling requirements. It seems sensible to stay with a trusted source and partners to help with the challenge ahead.

The FSA’s paper explains that those with appropriate existing qualifications do not need to take further exams to fill gaps. Their accredited body will be responsible for assessing the completeness of their records and the hope is there will be some consistency on this across the market.

It is clear that good planning is vital. Care needs to be taken on deciding which events and activities are most relevant and worthwhile. Past activities will also count. Independent accreditation is helpful here and good record-keeping is essential, particularly for advisers already over the level four threshold.

The IFP is looking to include provision of the new statements within membership costs and would expect to be in a position to sign people off from the beginning of 2012.

Adviser support is needed not only with gap-filling and new qualifications but also business transition. Speaking to people at conferences at the moment, it seems that the exam hurdle is being dealt with. However, there is concern about confidently asking clients to pay fees by 2013.

Those charging fees successfully and profitably have built a client proposition not based on any product sales but on building a plan for their clients to achieve their goals and objectives.

Getting this service perspective clear has made it easier to prepare for the new challenge. There is strong client demand for a good quality financial planning service and, as more and more players leave the market, strong businesses are going to be well placed to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning

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