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Financial adviser qualifications

Updated 16 May 2022

2min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

Independent financial adviser working

When you contact your financial adviser for the first time, be sure to ask about their qualifications. First and foremost you want to know that they really are legitimate and competent, and secondly you need assurance that they have the specialist knowledge that you may need. A properly qualified adviser will be delighted to show you their certificates to prove that they are fully able to advise you in the relevant areas.

To help you double-check qualifications and understand what they really mean, we’ve put together a glossary of the most common ones you’ll come across.

What grade? - The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)

Most financial qualifications are assessed under the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). You will see that these have a QCF grade, from level 1 to level 8. To help you interpret the levels, we compare them here to more familiar qualifications: 

QCF level 

Equivalent to:


1 – 2

Below A-level 




Minimum qualification pre-2013 


Components of a degree

Minimum qualification from 2013 onwards 

5 – 7



Degree / masters degree




Examining bodies offer advanced examinations at QCF levels 5, 6 and 7.  Universities award financial services degrees, post-graduate masters and PhDs


Do they have a Statement of Professional Standing?

Every individual financial adviser who sells investment products, securities or derivatives must have a current Statement of Professional Standing. This 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, to stay up to date with changes in the industry and in regulation.

Below you can view the specific qualifications approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the only kind that we recognise. Click on each institute name to see the qualifications that it issues.

Chartered Insurance Institute

Personal Finance Society

The London Institute of Banking and Finance

Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland

CFA Society of the UK

Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment

Institute of Financial Planning

Pensions Management Institute

Scottish Qualification Authority

Financial regulators of the British Isles

All financial advisers listed on Unbiased are regulated by one of the following bodies:


Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman

Isle of Man Financial Services Authority

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.