Mine’s bigger than yours!

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It was reported a week or so ago that IFA network Best Practice has raised the bar for its would-be members, requiring them to be QCF level 6 qualified.

The ‘posting’ outcry that followed highlighted the adviser qualification schism that has developed both leading up to and beyond RDR.

This is very sad, counter productive and in many ways misses the many valid points made by advisers about the purpose and application of qualifications linked to doing the best for your clients.

Some perspective is called for in this debate as it is clear that the industry is a sum of its many and varied parts. How this applies to fostering strong consumer relationships is in many ways not always about how well qualified an adviser is.

In August last year the IFS launched a level 6 qualification program.

In their notes on the subject they said:

The new Level 6 qualification builds on the success of the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice, the Advanced Diploma in Financial Advice is aimed at advisers who want to differentiate themselves from their peers and demonstrate their commitment to professional development and standards by going beyond the threshold qualification level.

To be eligible for the programme, applicants must already hold a QCF Level 4 qualification, such as the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice or an equivalent qualification in financial advice and planning.

Best Practice was founded in 2003 and in 2009 gained the Chartered accreditation to achieve the highest levels of qualification and professionalism.

Any firm planning to join their network must have a principal or director qualified to level 6, holding either the chartered or certified financial planner qualification. Around half of their 90-member network already holds level 6.

There will be commercial benefits attached to this decision. For example the network should be able to obtain better PI terms based upon a combination of higher levels of qualifications and any uplifted compliance and best practice rigour that is put in place.

Best Practice state that they “have a belief that all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” 

Qualifications are important but it is how they are put into practice, how they relate to a client needs and most importantly do their clients see enough value in this to pay for it.

Higher qualifications do not always guarantee good outcomes.

We only need to look at NHS nursing today to see that the standards and expectations of patient care, that were fostered and promoted pre degree entry to the profession, have fallen in to great disrepair.

Many new nurses, now with a degree qualification as a requirement to do the job, no longer see that caring about patients is not always about the professional qualification to do the job.

It is about sometimes doing often dirty unpleasant work, about empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope and above all never say never.

For those advisers that do not see the need or the value for QCF level 6 to best serve their clients interests it is most likely that they and their clients value more their empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope experience and above all never say never attitude that has been established over many years in addition to their QCF level 4.

And really there is nothing wrong with that.

Best Practice are right in saying: all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” and as an industry we should see that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no better or worse.

It is what works for your firm and your clients, who after all are the ultimate arbiters in deciding your success or failure.

Back in March 2011, MM’s Paul McMillan was asking if level 6 will become the new minimum standard and I suspect that within 5 years it may well be heading that way.

If so, any raising of the academic qualification bar should be done with a clear purpose, way beyond just achieving higher qualifications for qualification’s sake.

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