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The route to qualification

To give you some background, I am one of three partners, with a collective 45 years experience, who came together from different firms 18 months ago to set up Grosvenor Financial Consultants.

We call ourselves general practitioners although one partner specialises in investment and particularly venture capital trusts. The other is heavily involved in self-invested pension plans. My own speciality is dealing with doctors and dentists, which I have done since coming into the industry in 1986.

We have around 1,300 clients and eight support staff in our offices in central York. We also have a sister company that deals in general insurance.

We are very active in the mortgage market and I am doing quite a lot of 100 per cent lending to dentists who are relatively newly qualified or self-employed with no accounts.

The part of the exam that deals with application-to-offer stage holds no fears but I do know that I will need to brush up on the legal and post-completion stages as, obviously, we are rarely involved in this stage.

Due to various commitments, I see myself sitting the exam in September as May, June and July are normally my busiest months of the year.

Every year towards the end of May, I give a presentation to final-year dental students, after which most of them tend to become clients, which involves an awful lot of effort and paperwork during June and sometimes July.

My family and I have a two-week holiday planned in August. There is also another small matter of the World Cup during June, which I may find a little bit of a distraction. This all means it will be difficult to fit in some studying but my revision timetable will be invaluable.

We are extremely busy at the moment and, in fact, have been since Grosvenor started. This has allowed us very little time to devote to examinations. We all have FPC – and a large number of study books for the AFPC. So September looks like the most realistic time for me to sit the exam.

I recently went to the Money Marketing IFA UK Exhibition and attended the Cemap presentation given by one of the trainers. At that stage, I was quite relaxed about the exam. That was until I found out that 51 per cent of people taking the exam were failing.

When the trainer put forward a typical exam question asking what staircasing was, I started to panic when I could not see Led Zeppelin in any of the potential answers. I knew from this point that I was going to have to send off for the syllabus sooner rather than later.

The Cemap course syllabus arrived on my birthday – along with several bottles of wine from colleagues. Needless to say, the syllabus was somehow overlooked but the wine managed to find its way home that evening.

I am not terribly disciplined at this sort of thing. I have quite a young family and the last time I was working for exams – FPC 1, 2 and 3 – I had a study where I could lock myself away after supper in the evenings. This has now become a nursery and I am not yet sure where I will be able to go to revise.

In common with a lot of others in this profession, I do a reasonable amount of evening work, whether it is with clients or staying late in the office, as well as spending time with my family when I do get home.

Weekends therefore are going to present the best opportunity for me to study and I will have a good look through the syllabus to find out where my weak points might be.

I think the mortgage exam, like AFPC, will be good for the industry as any further professionalism can only be a good thing. If we are forced down the route of fee-charging, then the public must see IFAs in a similar light to solicitors and accountants, with relevant professional qualifications.

The only amusing story (which was not so funny at the time) I have about exams was when I went to sit my end of first-year papers at Newcastle University, where I was studying estate management.

It was two exams a day for a week and I turned up one morning expecting a law exam, only to discover it was the building paper which I had not really revised for but by some fluke I passed. This time I will definitely be prepared.

To help me along the way, my schedule includes a Scot-tish Widows Bank revision seminar, which will be an opportunity to raise any difficult issues. It will also offer me some guidance on the new method of testing that the Institute of Financial Services has introduced.

Sitting a multiple-choice mortgage exam at a driving test centre will be a brand new experience for me and the more prepared I am for it the better.

In terms of expectations, I have to say that to pass it first time is the only option – I am not sure I could stand the embarrassment of every reader of Money Marketing knowing that I had failed.

This adds a bit of pressure and certainly means I will be taking the exam more seriously than my first year estate management exams.

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