Q. How many examinations does it take to become an IFA? A. The Financial Services Skills Council says it doesn't know either - that's apparently up to examining bodies.
The Financial Services Skills Council has thrown the ball firmly back in the court of awarding bodies today with the publication of its consultation document on appropriate examination modules to replace the existing FPC and AFPC routes to qualifying as a financial adviser.
Those in the industry are unlikely to be any wiser, however, as the examinations framework outline clearly states the FSSC's role is to set a qualifications bar, while leaving decisions on specific exams to different awarding bodies.
"It will be for awarding bodies to decide how best to 'package' appropriate examinations in the light of their understanding of their markets," the FSSC says.
"The Skills Council will, however, insist that it is clear to firms and candidates where appropriate examinations are located within a qualification."
But the end effect, according to diagrams in the consultation document itself, is that those trying to attain qualification as financial advisers may be required to do three exams by some awarding bodies, but as many as five exams by other such bodies, or even just one big exam by others still – all depending on just how any particular body wishes to test the skills of examinees.
The purpose of the "Appropriate Examination Modules" approach is not to determine the look and feel of exams for everybody, the FSSC says, but to "test attainment of all the learning outcomes".
Some 400 different examinations are currently being reviewed, and a list of "appropriate exams" will be published by April, including on the FSSC's website, although it is not clear whether this will come in time for the 15 April deadline for responses to the consultation document published today.
Six modules have been proposed so far:
- ApEx 1 – UK finanical services, regulation and ethics,
- ApEx2 – investment and risks,
- ApEx3 – protection,
- ApEx4 – retirement planning,
- ApEx5 – mortgage advice,
- ApEx6 – lifetime mortgage advice.
Modules on long term care, employee benefits and derivatives will be ready by the end of this year, the FSSC says, with an aim of completing the entire examinations review by 2007.
An additional module on advice skills is planned for enabling firms to test the competency of advisers in face-to-face situations with clients, including how well they perform fact-finds, assess client needs, and advise on investment solutions.
Details on this module will be published later this month. However, the FSSC says already that it proposes this module be available as "an externally verified national qualification."
"This will provide firms with an added indicator that they comply with the TC requirements."
The Skills Council will review awarding bodies and their exams on an ongoing basis, performing annual surveys of “user satisfaction”, and formally reviewing individual exams every three years.
It will also meet monthly with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and its Scottish equivalent the SQA to review the maintenance of standards and qualifications for which they ultimately bear a statutory responsibility.
Examination and trade bodies have only a short time to respond to proposals, as the consultation closes on April 15th.
amu responses should be sent either by email to Alison Cecil-Smith or in writing to:
Financial Services Skills Council
51 Gresham Street
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