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Qualifications: stop putting off the inevitable

by Yvonne Goodwin on Nov 29, 2010 at 09:27

Qualifications: stop putting off the inevitable

Some of you may know that I am a member of the Yorkshire Regional Personal Finance Society (PFS) Committee and last week was our regional conference with a record turnout of 137 members. 

The content was relevant and useful, but I heard some shocking statistics from our education officer. He’d emailed a survey to the 2,500 members in our region about their training needs prior to the retail distribution review (RDR) and only had seven (yes seven) responses. 

Now I am reading much about RDR preparation at the moment and there seem to be a lot of vocal IFAs out there flinching at the qualification aspect but with only two years left until RDR day or whatever acronym it may become known as, do get your training plan in place now whether it is for gap filling or actually doing exams.

On Friday last week I sat the RO1 exam – financial services, regulation and ethics. It was tough – having to learn all those EU acronyms – but hey, I did my very first financial planning exam in 1988 so the learning I have gained has both brought me up to date and evidenced that fact. Watching the news on Sunday evening about the Ireland financial bailout meant that I understood more than I would have done before I started learning the syllabus. 

So I would encourage everyone, if you haven’t already started (I guess I might already be preaching to the converted on the New Model Adviser® blog) and you are being offered training at a very reasonable cost then just get on and do it. 

Stop the talking and take some action. I'm now committed to doing the certified financial planner assessment via the Institute of Financial Planning before Xmas, and with all this snow and ice I have no reason not to sit inside and get on with it (procrastination apart)!

36 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Christopher Petrie

Nov 29, 2010 at 10:40

Funnily enough Yvonne, you're not talking entirely to the converted, even on NMA blog. There are still quite a lot of IFAs who still just want to pretend the new laws aren't coming in.

After Christmas, people will be talking about RDR coming in at the "end of next year". That may finally jump-start some people into action. It seems to me that too much time has been spent arguing the toss, despite all the evidence that the FSA have no intention in changing their minds. If some people had put as much effort into passing the exams as they have arguing about doing them - they would be Chartered by now!!

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Duncan Carter

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:30

Hi Yvonne, did you do R01 rather than gap filling as a conscious decision or just decide that evidencing the 'filled gap' would be too uncertain?

I'm with you and Christopher Petrie by the way

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Mark Edward Smith

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:37

Couldn't agree more Yvonne! I have just registered to sit the CTA (tax) exams in the new year.

Nothing like a cold snap for an excuse to hit the books!

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Lady IFA

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:37

Gosh this topic is getting tiresome isn't it!

Anyone still not at level 4 should be ashamed of themselves!

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Nov 29, 2010 at 11:45

Lady IFA

I assume you have reached level4 status so congratulations.

I have no doubt there are many IFA's who , like me , are currently working towards that goal.None of us need feel ashamed that we are not there yet , your comment is unhelpful.

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Paul Harding

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:50


What a ridiculous word to use. (More appropriate to say that people who post anonomously should be ashamed of themselves).

Whats actually tiresome is the inability of supposedly emotionally intelligent people to understand others perspectives. Different people have different skills, different client needs, different life priorities etc.

Whatever your judgement of this issue, If you cannot empathise with those on the other side then you demonstrate failings of more significance than the lack of exam pass.

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Sam Caunt

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:56

My wife will do one of the RO exams - probably RO1 - since it fills some of the CPD gaps. The problem with CPD is that while it is recorded, it is very time consuming to actually prove that those gaps have been met. Now this may not be a problem (the CII are sympathetic on this point and do not consider it an issue), but RO1 will tick another box for her - the accomplishment of Chartered Status. There is no excuse for not being at level 4 and aiming higher.

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Richard Wilson

Nov 29, 2010 at 11:59

I could not agree more Paul Harding. I do get a little tiresome of these rather pompous, self-opinionated creatures that seem to crave through their anonimity through their own sanctimonious priggishness.

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Ned Naylor

Nov 29, 2010 at 12:12

Dear Lady IFA

Oh Golly Gosh, what a contrast of view this blog is turning out to be.

I and many thousands of my colleagues do not need to feel ashamed ourselves if we have not take QCF level four qualifications, there has been in force a system of CPD education and assessment for some years to keep us up to date with changes in regulation, product design and consumer issues.

That I, at 61, with an exemplary record of service to clients am now being forced to "go back to school " and re learn issues I am quite familiar with, without the need to waive around a piece of paper to prove it, is both galling and aggrovating, when those dictating these new rules are themselves not qualified to the requisite levels.

In one of these blogs, someone referred to the old style mechanic, not being up to speed with new engine technology. No one puts them out of business and it is down to their own pride in doing a proper job, to acquaint themselves with new technical procedures to do their job properly and safely.

No one tells them to go to school and get more engineering qualifications to operate what is in essence now a simple diagnostic computer to spot faults in engine performance, all they need to do is get the relevant experience in order to use it, they do not need to know how the processor works.

What I deeply resent is the implementation of a restriction of trade being imposed on me by the regulator without any reference to my record of providing good advice for the last 20yrs as an iFA and that no funding is being made available from the ridiculous level of FSA fees we all have to pay, to be able to comply and being force to expend ridiculous amounts of money to pay for course materials and exam fees, which previously were voluntary.

A GP in the medical profession does not need to re-qualify for their job, if new innovations in medical treatment come about, they don't need to take extra exams, all they need to do is act on it if appropriate for their patients and refer them to specialists for firm diagnosis and treatment.

I am not a lifestyle planner, don't want to be and I have never met anyone yet who wants me to dictate the course oftheir lives. All the consumer wants is practical, proficient advice on the aspects of living too long, dieing too soon or getting too ill to work.

The effect on the economy will be felt for years if you take out of the equation in 2012 a substantial number of more experienced IFAs from advising on and selling, Yes SELLING, financial products and services for reward. SELLING seems to have been allocated a four letter word status, without SELLING our advice and services and without SELLING products, the retail investment market could collapse and the subsequent effects on the economy could be drastic.

I have never and would never, knowlingly sell a product to a clientwhich was not suitable, so why do I need to spend vast amounts of money in taking more qualifications to continue with my job, (which incidentally I am taking in any event as I wish to contine trading after 2012 but deeply resent the imposition)

I do not need to be ashamed and neither do my industry colleagues, all the qualifications in the world do not instill in an adviser the Integrity and honesty necessary to serve our clients well. That is what really matters and some of the clients I have assisted over the past few years to obtain redress for mis selling of inappropriate investments such as the Beale Dobie and Integrity producs appear to have been sold to these clients by highly qualified advisers, so no paper guarantees exist to meet the needs for integrity and honesty in the conduct of business.

I have already got those along with all due skill and diligence in my conduct of business as have thousands of my industry colleagues no doubt.



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kevin tooze

Nov 29, 2010 at 12:15

I went to an investment seminar today Passive funds v Active ...looking around 75% of the audience were 55yrs+ Do you really think these valuable experienced IFA's will be happy with exam deadlines. We really have got to keep these people if wisdom is to be passed on to those with qualifications but not necessarily experience . There needs to be consideration for their livelyhood and clients . Yes greater knowledge is desirable but there are many ways in which this can be shown and tested.

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Nov 29, 2010 at 12:17

Sam Caunt

i think you will find many reasons , not excuses , why many have not achieved level 4.the important matter is that many are now aiming to do so and should be encouraged.

get off the high horse please.

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kevin tooze

Nov 29, 2010 at 12:25

To Ned Well said Spot on KT

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Jonathan Kirby

Nov 29, 2010 at 12:29

Yvonne, could you tell me what use learning a load of EU acronyms is to anyone?

I haven't used any with my clients in the last quarter century and doubt I ever will.

If I want to find out one I have my good friend Google.

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Nov 29, 2010 at 12:41

But now we find that just getting over the 140 credit level is not enough and we now have to 'gap fill' !!! Is there any end to this !!

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Ron Jones

Nov 29, 2010 at 13:13

I was hoping to see no-one rise to their bait.

I see the stupid ones as those who think the use of academic qualifications as a sensible one for this purpose.

Voicing ones concern over the inappropriate use of studying types to achieve a different desired outcome is one which I see as sensible.

The difference between academically qualified and competent needs clearing up now and I hope that the RDR debate does this, amongst other things.

God help you if ever anyone decides to do a gap fill on current legislation relative to your qualifications when the use of academic qualifications fails, it was worth noting that some highly qualified individuals realised when they saw their gap fill requirements that maybe academic isnt the way to go, if only the rest of you were as intelligent as your exams lead you to believe.

Look up exam types and the outcomes they are designed to achieve THEN comment.

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Paul Raseta

Nov 29, 2010 at 13:21

Over the past months, I've only seen a couple of references to 'restriction of trade' and wonder if the lawyers and barristers are quietly waiting for a 2013 'gravy train' courtesy of our generally unqualified, and opinionated masters. I certainly am not aware that this argument has been put forward by any of our institutions and associations, in defence of this element of RDR legislation.

It will only take one individual to challenge their 'dismissal' after 1st January 2013 before the flood gates open, and I would be very surprised if any court of law could uphold the ramifications of this legislation,

Human Rights prevail for this very reason - to protect the individual against, what is effectively, bullying.

Ned's comments are logical, balanced, and realistic. Pity our regulators are completely the opposite.

(A qualified, and understanding IFA)

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Ned Naylor

Nov 29, 2010 at 13:51

Put forward Ned for head of the FSA (or any other future regulator) as being able to put forward a logical, balanced and realistic viewpoint.

Any nominations will be gratefully accepted, and should be referred to the Chancellor and Vince Cable.

As IF!!!

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Philip Wise

Nov 29, 2010 at 13:55

Hi Yvonne

As far as I'm aware, the FSA hasnt yet said that the CII/PFS is accredited for signing off CPD. Is that right still?

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Philip Wise

Nov 29, 2010 at 14:02

Hysterical, Ned, what a laugh!!

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Dan Rear

Nov 29, 2010 at 15:54

I had an interesting chat to a CII man last week. He told me the old 'G' papers are like Gold-dust, (I have 2) and that the gapfill is really quite straightforward. I left the meeting feeling much heartened.

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Ned Naylor

Nov 29, 2010 at 16:09

Philip, come on , surely someone with bit of common sense would not be seen as alien at the FSA would they?

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Chris Ellis

Nov 29, 2010 at 17:17

Shocking statistic- "He’d emailed a survey to the 2,500 members in our region about their training needs prior to the retail distribution review (RDR) and only had seven (yes seven) responses". -Thats because Yvonne the other 2493 were busy running their businesses and doing what an IFA should be doing-spending as much time with their clients not stroking their own egos.

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Gerry Cooper

Nov 29, 2010 at 17:23

A different slant on Yvonne's article?


"Studying R01 helped me to understand and follow the News about Ireland's debt crisis"

Are you serious Yvonne?

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Philip Wise

Nov 29, 2010 at 17:26

It was your first entry that made me laugh, Ned. I loved the way you sent up all the dinosaur IFAs with your ironic rant!

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Lady IFA

Nov 29, 2010 at 20:03

I am going to defend my comments here.

I am a 'younger generation' IFA and have worked hard to be as qualified as I can be. Chartered status is long behind me but I continue to take exams because I want to - and feel I should - know the content of them. (Yes! It is actually quite interesting and useful if you dare to open a text book!) I agree exams arnt everything, I work hard, read widely and occasionally attend industry events where they look to be of some benefit. Exams are just part of being in the business as far as I am concerned.

The divide between the young and old IFAs is clear, those that are forward looking and willing to raise standards, make a better more transparent and respected profession, and on the other side of the fence, the dinosaurs that still unfortunately linger.

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Nigel Tyrrell

Nov 30, 2010 at 07:50

Go Lady IFA - How to wins friends and influence people NOT.

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Paul Harding

Nov 30, 2010 at 09:28

Lady IFA

Its bizarre you presumably believe in what you say yet still post anonomously?; maybe its because you are asashmed of your own use of the label dinosaur or your previous use of "ashamed".

Would you apply the same RDR logic to Doctors, Dentists, Solicitors, Accountants; in fact, following the same principle, what about everyone who ever got a degree? things change over the years in every subject i presume so maybe you should have to do your degree again every 15 years for it to remain valid? Of course not, but the principle is the same for "older" advisers who DID achieve (admittedly lower) qualifications once, when the industry WAS a simpler place.

We all know some areas of advice require higher technical knowledge, but the current system already has a mechanism for that (eg occupational pensions, LTC) and that could easily be expanded - (in fact I dont know why the FSA didnt take this far easier route of widening accepted practice) - but seriously, does a tied agent selling a funeral plan, or Friendly society plan for £20 per month really need to understand the company accounting issues within J06? - does arranging an ISA for someone really require an indepth knowledge of IHT law? - do you really need to grasp the niceties of Trust law and taxation to be able to fact find and identify the need for some life cover (with a referral to a solicitor to deal with any complex Trust issues).

Maybe it would be far simpler if we as a community recognised that not everything we do is that complex (within our world that is) - most of the truly important stuff to the mass market client is fairly simple, and could be even simpler and cheaper for the client if the FSA allowed it. Let the clients with really complex situations get highly technical advice from highly qualified advisers, but dont rip away advice from the masses. The marketing advantage provided by the exam differential will ENCOURAGE better qualifications naturally and the overall market will evolve to a higher plane anyway.

By all means lets improve knowledge constantly (who doesnt?), but not by the blunt "exam and deadline" tool, casting "old" advisers aside. One day you will be older and realise that remembering peripheral stuff for exams becomes more difficult (luckily I have mine so im not arguing a vested interest) but it doesnt mean you forget what you use daily. If i only had 5 planned years of working life left, Im not sure I'd bother spending 30% of it on studying and stressful exams. Its a finite journey we're all travelling, and life choices matter to advisers the same as clients.

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John Smyth

Nov 30, 2010 at 10:20

Lady IFA.

Please get your head from out of your posterior. Much as you would like to believe you are a member of a respected profession you are not. The public don't believe it is and this industry does not either otherwise people like you would not be banging on about it so much and so often. You are part of the financial services industry. If you want to be part of a recognised profession go and become a doctor, dentist, solicitor etc. and stop kidding yourself. To most members of the public you are thought of as being something equivalent to a sales person or an estate agent so accept it. The description professional really only means you get paid for what you do and is applied to footballers, rugby players etc.

By the way I don't think there is anything wrong with being a sales person or estate agent and if you are a good one and always act ETHICALLY be proud of it.

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Ned Naylor

Nov 30, 2010 at 10:34

All these blogs just serve our need to let off steam at the injustice of being forced to take exams, lose our right to give consumers the choice of how to pay for our services and as for SELLING, in the USA a successful sales person is the engine by which business succeeds and grows. They look after their sales people and reward them well.

Demeaning the Sales Process which is a necessary element of the adv ice process to deam oneself a "professional" is to demean the public, they know what we are , they understand the need for us to be paid for our services and they had, I stress, had, a right to choose how they paid for our advice and services.

YOu cannot divorce advice from sales, but that is what the banks do and look what a mess they caused.

As I said previously on one of these wonderful hot air blogs, Integrity and Honesty in all your dealings with clients is something no amount of exams will teach us, you either have it or you don't.

Question - How many complaints against rogue dishonest solicitors are there? Thousands each year, yet they are deemed "professional"

Professionalism is not achieved with exams, knowledge is, but the application of that knowledge for the benefit of clients is the true meaning of professionalism.

Nuff said.

Look forward to Xmas! In two years time we will know where we are and some of us may be in a different place.

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Tony Laverick

Nov 30, 2010 at 16:54

Gentlemen, far too many impassioned but pointless rants which merely add fuel to your opponents views!

Lady IFA is not hiding hiding behind anonymity - her article qoted her name, showed her photo and she even stated her involvement with the PFS. Let's hope PH takes more care with research for clients.

Doctors & Dentists do not have to requalify because they have already qualified but must maintain structured CPD, which they invariably do through their professional bodies. How can anyone suggest Level 3 is a qualification? The medical profession take up to 7 years of full time study to qualify, thankfully at a far higher level than IFAs.

Motor mechanics are suitably qualified but in a limited area. Why is it so many IFAs seem to think they can be GPs when they know very little about anything? It's not easy to refer technical problems to specialists if you don't recognise there is a problem.

This not to meant to criticise those with a sound knowledge and who aspire to attain Level 4. Personal achievement will be your main reward but if you aren't academic, try the ifs alternative which is more hands on but still requires indepth knowledge.

As an older adviser, with Chartered status, I have nothing against salesmen, many of whom rise to the top of services companies and I even think of myself as one. However, lack of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Finally, maybe I'm out of touch but does anyone still sell just funeral policies and friendly society savings plans for a living? Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.

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Tony Laverick

Nov 30, 2010 at 16:57

Before I am corrected, I understand Lady IFA and the author are not the same. Shows how imortant it is to read carefully!

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Neil Mumford

Nov 30, 2010 at 18:08

I agree with both Tony and also Paul Hardings comments, even if they conflict slightly

Everyone would agree that life has changed considerably since we all joined this profession which then was a salesmens paradise (20+ years ago) and yes everyone is different and have their own skill sets, but the truth is that many in this profession has been woefully underqualifed/knowledgable for too long.

Lets not kid ourselves to compare us to Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants is a nonsense they have had very high barriers to entry for many years. the FPC is no comparison. That is not to say that perhaps we do a far more valuable job.

Lets remember the RDR was first introduced in 2006 with increased qualifications as part of the agenda, so many cannot moan that they have not had long enough to upskill. Why should advisers consider investing their time upskilling and making sacrfices.

1. To gain greater knowledge to help their clients

2. For professional pride

3. To gain a proper qualification

4. To help rid this industry of the tardy reputation it has in many peoples eyes

I have also been in the business for 25 years.have served my clients well as many advisers have said before me and never had a complaint but I do believe that knowledge and experiance go firmly hand in hand.

Paul is right that the FSA did miss a trick and should have made more areas of advice permitted activities two crucial areas are portfolio planning and post- retirement planning. Any one then pertaining to be an expert would have no problem with the exam, would they?????? This I believe would have had a very positive step as most advisers would have then been more than 50% there with other exams such as mortgages, long term care etc.

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Ron Jones

Dec 01, 2010 at 10:04

Neil, nothing like another academic certificate to solve the industry's woes.

I see those bank complaints vanishing the next day and our PI cover halving and the ombudsman handing out redundancies.

It must be nice to stick you head in the sand or academic papers and see nothing of the reality.

The MPS hit the nail on the head with their call for 'hard facts' much better than illusion, fantasy and fiction at resolving any potential real issues.

I would have a little read of other study types and their outcomes, when whole professions and even universities who make their living in the main from academic material support other study types for work based outcomes there may just be something in it, there are hundreds of papers for you to read which should be right up your street unless of course you do not want to know the truth.

Lets all get real.

In the industry I was in before this one we would get wrong for discrediting the industry or anyone without showing facts and proof to back us up, we could be ejected or fined as a min.

The regulator is the worst offender any old crap comes out of some of their staff's mouths, the same with a small number of IFAs.

The hard facts do not support these criticisms.

Cure the cancers first then eventually get down to cosmetic stuff.

Bear in mind the client's budget and the EU competition which is due very soon, we have to operate comercially within these restraints.

Like the MPs said 'hard facts' prioritise them then start working from the top methodically and slowly.

The only real problems IFAs have are from within, the regulator and a handful of nutty IFAs.

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Julian Sunley

Dec 01, 2010 at 12:31

Yawn, has no-one got any work to do or exams to study for?

I think this comes under the heading of 're-covering old ground'. You either agree with the exams requirement of he RDR or you don't, but any ranting on here is unlikely to change anything and is just a time drain is it not?

What I most object to is that those who are anti-exams continually referring to those of us who are Dip or above as 'sanctimonious' or 'I'm alright Jack's'. Do they think we just woke up one morning with more points? I seem to remember hours and hours of study and revision. I have yet to find anyone else who has passed this level that feels it was a completely non-worthwhile exercise and that they didn't learn anything.

Yes, with any exam syllabus there will be elements that make you think 'why do I need to know that', but equally I feel I learnt an awful lot from gaining my Diploma back in 2008 and have no problem with having to gap-fill over the next 2 years to get QCF4 signoff. It is due to this that I am now studying towards Chartered (having sat another exam in October) and that is as a 'one man band' also trying to run a business and look after clients so it is not as if I have spare time on my hands.

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Harry Katz

Dec 02, 2010 at 12:17

Dear Lady IFA

I am probably one of the older Farts around. That doesn't make me a dinosaur. And I can assure you that the divide between young and old advisers is indeed clear, but not in the way you think.

I have been in this industry now for 25 years I qualified at level 4 back in 1990. I have taken exams consistently (up to 2001). I am a CFP.

All this is well and good. But in addition:

I have had a successful career OUTSIDE financial services. I have run companies for most of my working life. I am one of my own best clients (In other words I put my money where my mouth is).

I have seen numerous Governments and recessions come and go, as well as good times. I started in Financial Services during the advent of regulation.

So in brief I and my cohort have the experience (and the knowledge) that will probably take you another 15 years (at least – if ever) to equal – in addition to our academic attainments which are a ‘nice to have’ but actually prove very little. I have yet to be asked either by a client or a professional connection (where all my business comes from) what qualifications I hold.

In conclusion I do think that too many of the younger generation are sadly lacking in (amongst other things) a little diffidence. Hubris in anyone is so very unbecoming – never more so than in the young.

To I believe Phil Wise –

Yes you are correct the numpties at Canary Wharf have yet to accredit anyone for the provision of ‘official’ CPD. I had however understood that there was supposed to be a ‘no regrets’ policy, but it seems that my Prof Body (IFP) is holding on until they receive accreditation. A Dogs Breakfast – well that’s a polite way of putting it!

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Steven Harknett

Dec 07, 2010 at 21:28

Regarding the RDR qualification requirements I find it absolutely baffling why not one educationalist or trainer of any note save me has said that the way to solve the grandfathering/experience debate is to introduce an NVQ type competence based qualification. This would satisfy all those who have many years work based competence and solve the problems of industry retention and provide a good compromise in relation to the enduring conundrum of the one qualification size fits all. Why aren't professional bodies investigating this route and would they like help in this regard. I am available lol.


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