A key part of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) proposals from the Financial Services Authority was raising the minimum benchmark qualification level for all financial planners.
From the end of 2012, the minimum standard will be raised from QCF Level 3 (equivalent to an A Level qualification) to QCF Level 4. This means that all financial advisers, even those offering restricted advice, will be required to hold a Diploma level qualification if they want to keep advising their clients.
From 2010, all new financial advisers will need to reach this new higher qualification level before they can start advising clients.
This week saw the publication of core standards for the QCF Level 4 benchmark Appropriate Examinations for retail investment advice. These new standards are open for consultation until the end of February.
Here at Informed Choice, our team of Financial Planners have already largely satisfied (and in some cases far exceeded) these new benchmark qualification requirements.
Four of our seven Financial Planners have obtained the QCF Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning (and Chartered Financial Planner status). Another holds the QCF Level 4 Diploma in Financial Planner is awaiting results which will take him to QCF Level 6. The other two who are not yet at QCF Level 4 are making good progress towards achieving this level ahead of time.
We have some sympathy for those financial advisers who struggle to study and pass professional examinations. These are challenging tests of technical knowledge and application of that knowledge under exam conditions. The QCF Level 6 qualifications we all aspire to at Informed Choice are equivalent to an honours degree.
Yet the provision of financial advice is a technically demanding activity and qualification standards should reflect the often challenging nature of providing suitable advice to retail investors.
The combination of higher level professional qualifications and relevant experience (along with ethical behaviour and continuing professional development) is most likely to deliver best outcomes for all clients of financial advisers.
The call for higher qualification standards for financial advisers is not a recent thing. In fact, advisers who believe they can reach QCF Level 4 and then relax could be in for a shock as several consumer bodies have urged the regulator to go further, possibly to Level 6 and Chartered status, as a mandatory minimum.