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Mine’s bigger than yours!

4 Apr 2013

It was reported a week or so ago that IFA network Best Practice has raised the bar for its would-be members, requiring them to be QCF level 6 qualified.

The ‘posting’ outcry that followed highlighted the adviser qualification schism that has developed both leading up to and beyond RDR.

This is very sad, counter productive and in many ways misses the many valid points made by advisers about the purpose and application of qualifications linked to doing the best for your clients.

Some perspective is called for in this debate as it is clear that the industry is a sum of its many and varied parts. How this applies to fostering strong consumer relationships is in many ways not always about how well qualified an adviser is.

In August last year the IFS launched a level 6 qualification program.

In their notes on the subject they said: 

The new Level 6 qualification builds on the success of the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice, the Advanced Diploma in Financial Advice is aimed at advisers who want to differentiate themselves from their peers and demonstrate their commitment to professional development and standards by going beyond the threshold qualification level.

To be eligible for the programme, applicants must already hold a QCF Level 4 qualification, such as the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice or an equivalent qualification in financial advice and planning.

Best Practice was founded in 2003 and in 2009 gained the Chartered accreditation to achieve the highest levels of qualification and professionalism.

Any firm planning to join their network must have a principal or director qualified to level 6, holding either the chartered or certified financial planner qualification. Around half of their 90-member network already holds level 6.

There will be commercial benefits attached to this decision. For example the network should be able to obtain better PI terms based upon a combination of higher levels of qualifications and any uplifted compliance and best practice rigour that is put in place.

Best Practice state that they “have a belief that all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” 

Qualifications are important but it is how they are put into practice, how they relate to a client needs and most importantly do their clients see enough value in this to pay for it.

Higher qualifications do not always guarantee good outcomes.

We only need to look at NHS nursing today to see that the standards and expectations of patient care, that were fostered and promoted pre degree entry to the profession, have fallen in to great disrepair.

Many new nurses, now with a degree qualification as a requirement to do the job, no longer see that caring about patients is not always about the professional qualification to do the job. 

It is about sometimes doing often dirty unpleasant work, about empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope and above all never say never.

For those advisers that do not see the need or the value for QCF level 6 to best serve their clients interests it is most likely that they and their clients value more their empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope experience and above all never say never attitude that has been established over many years in addition to their QCF level 4.

And really there is nothing wrong with that. 

Best Practice are right in saying: all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” and as an industry we should see that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no better or worse.

It is what works for your firm and your clients, who after all are the ultimate arbiters in deciding your success or failure.

Back in March 2011, MM’s Paul McMillan was asking if level 6 will become the new minimum standard and I suspect that within 5 years it may well be heading that way.

If so, any raising of the academic qualification bar should be done with a clear purpose, way beyond just achieving higher qualifications for qualification's sake. 

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Comments (3)

The comment about nursing is particularly apposite.

You don't need level 6, or possibly even level 4, to do a good job as an IFA, but you definitely need an insight into your client's circumstances and an ability to relate to him/her, as well as an ability to let a client see that he/she can relate to you.

Richard Brown   08/04/2013   09:05
I can be neutral on this as I am level 6. However I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Higher qualifications on their own are not by any means an indicator or guarantee of good or even competent advice. In another incarnation many years ago I was responsible for the compliance of a part time ‘adviser’ who lectured in financial services and eventually became a professor. His work was downright rubbish (if not actually dangerous on occasion) and in those days just concentrated on the commission he could generate. We had numerous interesting discussions.

I don’t deny that higher educational standards are useful, but not on their own. How many highly qualified advisers are there who don’t have a pot to piss in? There are too many in this business who purport to be experts and yet whose on financial situation is a long way from ideal. Before telling others – do it yourself!

Then we have the issue of experience. When advising others who run their own firms, how many have created and run one of their own? How many have actually had experience outside financial services and how well can a 25 year old advise a successful businessman in his 50s?

It’s an amalgam in which education plays a part, but isn’t the whole story.

Harry Katz   08/04/2013   12:53
I am sick to the back teeth of those people who bleat on about qualifications and the higher they are the better for all.
1. You can read all you like, listen all you like but if there is NO ACTION nobody gets rewarded. This goes for the person reading a personal self development book or CD, right up to this supposedly ethereal land of the gods level 6. I might hasten to add that I know of a financial adviser who has 6 and is now going for 7, a fellowship of all things! The only rewarded people in this race for qualifications are the academic (!) institutions who wrote the courses in the first place!! I also know of someone who thought that an MBA was his meal ticket. Fat chance. He is still a middle manager in a major corporation but he is an expert in case studies!!

2. Malcolm Kilminster used to shout from the rooftops; its not your aptitude that gets you the results, its your attitude. I hear Disney, Edison, Ford and a whole host of others cheering this!!!

Rant over Derek. Back to the trenches humble level 3 that I am!

callomon1   09/04/2013   15:00

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