A little-known standard created for UK advisers that requires no extra exams has taken on fresh significance after a ringing endorsement from the FSA.
Amanda Bowe, head of the regulator’s Retail Distribution Review (RDR) team, said ISO 22222 could provide “an alternative or even complementary” standard to the more established chartered and certified qualifications currently available to financial advisers.
Created in 2006, ISO 22222 is available to all adviser firms as well as to individual advisers but, significantly given suggestions in the RDR to split the industry based on qualifications, does not involve compulsory exams.
Instead advisers only need "demonstrate knowledge", although creators of ISO confirm a range of exams - at SCQF Level 8 - "could count towards the knowledge".
It says it aims to provide best practice and to demonstrate advisers have the right knowledge, skills, ethics and experience to deliver quality services to customers.
It involves qualified ISO agents visiting firms and studying the day-to-day work of its advisers. If the adviser meets the criteria, he or she will become ISO 22222 certified.
Until now, ISO was unheard of among the majority of advisers and UK consumers but FSA backing could encourage more advisers to add another string to their bows.
Speaking at the FSA RDR Summit on Tuesday, Bowe said the RDR paper “makes it clear that we are talking about higher professional standards here, not just higher qualifications.
“For example, we have focused on chartered or certified because they are the standards familiar to many in the market.
“It might be that the ISO 22222 could provide an alternative or even complementary standard.”
Standards International, the first company in the UK that can certify the ISO 22222 standard to financial advisers, says it hopes it will be viewed as a high quality adviser benchmark.
Michelle Hoskin, co-founder of the firm, which is piloting the standard among a handful of advisers including one from Openwork, welcomed Bowe’s remarks, saying she was “chuffed to bits”.
She adds the ISO sets a benchmark of improved levels of professionalism, superior reputation and better internal standards.
“We have seen the potential in this from the beginning,” Hoskin says.
“It is the other side of the coin; it supports the academic qualifications advisers currently have.
"It’s all aimed at providing customers with a better level of service and to make them more confident in advisers.”
However, a firm spokesman added it would be tough to get the benchmark into the hearts and minds of advisers and consumers.
“Advisers might have avoided it in the past because of all the controversy over qualifications at the moment. But ISO 22222 does not involve qualifications.”
For more information, contact Melanie Blackmore on 01462 790894 or 07881 901742 or [email protected]
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