The FSA has moved to reassure IFAs any hikes in mandatory qualifications above QCF Level 4 post-RDR will only be implemented if the industry decides this is needed.
Some qualifications providers and support services groups have already started offering advisers the chance to work towards QCF Level 5 and Level 6 standards in the belief the goalposts will be raised post-2012.
However, the FSA told IFAonline today any changes to the main qualification requirements would be driven by the industry and not the regulator.
Katharine Leaman, manager in the FSA' s Professional Standards Policy team, says:
"The overall level would only change if industry practitioners in consultation with the FSSC decided it is needed.
"This kind of consultation process with the FSSC worked really well for the RDR and people believe they landed on the right answer so there is no reason to change this."
She also said advisers should not be concerned about proposals in its Training and Competence Consultation Paper, published today, to regularly review exam standards every three years. Advisers who have already achieved a certain level will not be required to resit a qualification if any changes are made.
Again, any developments to a particular exam, to reflect product or industry changes, would only be introduced after industry consultation and existing advisers could plug any knowledge gap with CPD.
She says: "Our message to IFAs is to focus on getting the Level 4 qualifications required for the end of 2012 and don't worry about about new qualifications at different levels in the future.
"As there are a lot of changes happening in the industry, particularly in the IFA space, it can be difficult to keep exam standards up to date. We want to make regular checks so new entrants know the exams they are taking reflect the industry they are entering into."
The regulator also said its plans to introduce a 30-month deadline for new advisers to achieve the necessary qualifications could be altered if firms responding to its consultation believe it is too low or too high. It said the timeframe has been selected as it was the highest period allowed under the previous regime.
Commenting on proposals to review exam standards in non-RDR areas like mortgages and insurance which have not been assessed for some time, Leaman says any changes would be industry-driven and a priority list for any alterations would be drawn up.
Its plans will also depend on its future arrangement with the FSSC which is currently under discussion but it hopes the situation will be resolved by the end of the year when its final rules on T&C are published.
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An added tier of asset management can of course deliver additional benefits for certain investors, writes Graham Bentley - just be sure you can justify it to the regulator and, especially, the client