Qualifications

Financial adviser qualifications

Financial advisers need to pass examinations on a broad range of financial and regulatory subjects to ensure that they are able to provide advice to the required standard.  Qualifications are issued by a number of different examining and awarding bodies, and as a result there are a lot of different certifications that can be issued.

Most qualifications have been assessed under the national Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) to establish what level they are – QCF grades each type of qualification as being between level 1 and level 8.  Unbiased.co.uk only lists qualifications that are on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) appropriate examinations list which allows registered individuals to provide financial advice.  To help you understand the individual qualifications a little better, unbiased.co.uk lists the qualifications further down this page.

  • QCF Level 3 qualifications are equivalent to A-level standard.  This is the minimum level of qualification that a financial adviser had to hold up to the end of 2012.
  • QCF Level 4 qualifications are the equivalent of components in a degree and this is the minimum level financial advisers need to achieve from the start of 2013.
  • QCF Level 4 + qualifications are at a higher level than components of a degree.  Examining bodies offer advanced examinations at QCF levels 5, 6 and 7.  Universities award financial services degrees, post graduate masters and PhDs and as a guide a PhD is at the highest QCF level - QCF level 8.

The requirements for higher levels of qualification (formerly QCF3, now QCF4) were introduced by the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) which came into effect at the end of 2012.  Another new requirement introduced from 1 January 2013 is that each individual financial adviser who sells investment products, securities or derivatives must have a current ‘Statement of Professional Standing’ which indicates that they have signed up to a code of ethics and that they have completed at least 35 hours of professional training each year, ensuring that they are up to date with changes in the industry and in regulation.  SPS certificates must be renewed annually so check that your adviser has a current certificate.

When you use the search tools to find a financial adviser in your local area, you’ll find that there are some useful options.  You can specify what type of advice you’re looking for, and whether or not you’d like the results to only show advisers with higher levels of qualification.  Every financial adviser will be happy to tell you about their qualifications, designations, experience and area of expertise.

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