Advisers say the existing exams are only suitable for those giving face to face advice to individuals and are entirely pointless for anybody advising businesses. Michael Whitfield, chief executive of Thomsons Online Benefits is proposing to create his own syllabus for his team of advisers.
Scottish Life is backing Whitfield’s call for a corporate component to the exams. Scottish Life business development manager Fiona Tait says the provider backs the principle of exams for all corporate advisers but agrees with Whitfield that the content should be made more appropriate to the type of work that business to business advisers undertake.
Under current proposals all advisers giving individual advice are required to hold level four qualifications covering two components. Advisers will have to cover personal tax, investment risk and principles and financial services, regulation and ethics. Tait points out that advisers making recommendations to employers on GPPs are not required to sit the exams if they are not giving face to face advice to individuals.
Whitfield argues that the second component of the qualification is far less suited to the corporate IFA, covering pensions, protection and general planning, including issues as far from corporate advice as estate planning. He would like to see an alternative second component for corporate advisers, akin to the component covering securities and derivatives that is offered to stockbrokers.
Whitfield says: “We need something that will teach staff how to be a good corporate adviser. I proposes to create my own and try to get the CII to approve it if no one else will.”
Tait says: “We support the principle of exams but it does make sense to have something more targeted to what corporate advisers will actually be doing.”
Fay Goddard, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society says: “I have sympathy for the corporate adviser community but there is no chance at this stage of a change. It is like being a lawyer – you have to get a background in areas that you might not necessarily practice in in future. The qualification standards are at the consultation stage and I would be surprised at changes being made to accommodate such a small community at this stage.”