Since the Retail Distribution Review changes to professional qualification have taken centre stage in the profession.
Adviser discussions about product commission rates and sales have been replaced by social media debate on the best professional qualifications to take.
Any slip ups with professional exams or study papers makes the trade press headlines these days.
Their importance has grown hugely.
Most Financial Planners have now either achieved senior level professional qualifications or are studying for them.
By far the most popular is the Chartered Financial Planner qualification from the CII’s Personal Finance Society with nearly 6,500 Chartered Financial Planners now registered and an estimated 6,000 on the qualification journey.
The lure of the ‘Chartered’ designation, most often associated in the UK with highly qualified professionals, has proved a major attraction.
There are also several hundred of Chartered Financial Planner firms.
The exams are not easy but with hard work most find they can achieve them.
The qualification, which can take years to achieve, is seen as Level 6 – about university standard.
While the growth of some CII exams has slowed recently, Chartered Financial Planner designation has continued to grow strongly.
This year the CII has launched the Regulated Retail Investment Adviser Re-evaluation test in conjunction with the FCA to provide a reevaluation of knowledge for those advisers.
All advisers, whichever bodies they choose, undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) but this new test takes that a stage further and will cover areas such as Financial Planning principles and personal taxation.
It’s aimed at advisers who took their Level 4 Diploma more than a year ago and may nudge some to aim for Level 6 as there are still significant numbers at Level 4. It will also count towards CPD targets.
The biggest change will be seen this year, however, in the rival Certified Financial Planner qualification from the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).
The CFP qualification, managed globally by the Denver-based Financial Planning Standards Board, has seen rapid growth globally to more than 180,000 holders but, in the UK, numbers have stalled in recent years and fallen slightly in the past year to just over 900.
Some have said the exam is too difficult and support has been lacking at times.
The CISI plans to change that perception this year with a major relaunch to the CFP pathway.
The professional body says the new exam with be up to Level 7 and the highest UK Financial Planning qualification.
Whether this will reinvigorate the qualification remains to be seen but the CISI is investing in the new pathway and improving support with new training courses, a new mentoring scheme
and a refreshed approach to the CFP.
The full feature is available to read in the latest issue of Financial Planning Today magazine, which is available to read for free here.