Wingate Financial Planning Chartered financial planner Alistair Cunningham has said he is "disappointed rather than surprised" to hear of the exclusive CII and SJP vulnerable clients qualification.
On Friday (6 September), the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) launched an Inclusive Financial Planning qualification exclusive to St James's Place (SJP) partners and advisers. It was designed to help SJP advisers develop a detailed and holistic understanding of vulnerable customers and their needs, and is exclusive to SJP for two years.
In response to the launch, Cunningham said he was "disappointed rather than surprised" with the pairing. He said it seemed in contradiction with the code of ethics that financial advisers would adhere to as they would be expected to act in the best interests of their clients.
The Chartered financial planner said the two year exclusivity to SJP was "awful" and could only have been done for commercial reasons. "The alternative would have been to introduce a new qualification that was of value to all advisers and to offer it to all advisers," he added.
Create and Prosper paraplanner Elliot Guthrie, meanwhile, said a professional body should act for all of its members and all benefits should be accessible to everyone "not just the highest bidder".
"I do think it's unfair, as it could give SJP advisers an advantage in completing their qualifications," he said. Instead, he would like to see the CII offer the qualification as a standalone unit to all members.
"Increasing professional standards is important and should ensure that going forward, all their activities benefit all members," he added.
In response to the complaints, a spokesperson from the CII said it has worked with other firms in the past and remains open to develop relevant learning material. They added: "The initial phase for this module is exclusive to SJP partners but will be opened up to all in due course."
'Continued adverse comments'
Slipaczek three times Chartered financial planner Filip Slipaczek said: "I am surprised they would want to be so associated with such an association, in view of the continued adverse comments in the financial and national press.
"If SJP has funded this, I haven't got a problem with their associates paying less of a fee," he continued. "What I have a problem with is that non-SJP people cannot have access to this qualification for two years - that is my gripe."
He, along with Designer Wealth Management Chartered financial planner Kris Amliwala would like the qualification to be immediately open to everyone.
He said: "If any Personal Finance Society or CII qualification was released or announced then it should be available to all. Is it preferential treatment to SJP and if so, why? That would be my question."
SJP divisional director responsible for professional development Edward Grant, who is also a past PFS president, said: "Over the past two years, St James's Place have partnered with the CII to build and develop this new qualification that will be piloted among St James's Place Partners before a wider industry launch.
"We firmly believe that ensuring vulnerable clients have access to the highest levels of knowledge and expertise available will generate a positive impact on client experience and quality of service overall. Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring the whole profession benefits from this innovative initiative."
SJP recently launched an internal review of its incentives and recognition structure. The news was first reported by The Telegraph and follows a stream of articles that appeared in The Sunday Times in recent weeks criticising the advice giant.
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