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Asked how many of the FSA’s intermediary-facing staff and supervisors, and those who conduct visits, were level-four qualified, the regulator said: “The level-four qualifications are not a prerequisite for employment in the FSA.
“The skill set for FSA staff is different to that of financial advisers. Therefore we do not maintain a record of level-four qualifications.”
When asked how many of the FSA’s senior directors and board members had level four or equivalent, how many were chartered and have a master’s degree in finance, the FSA responded that fewer than 10 senior directors held any of those qualifications.
Duncan Carter, director of Lancashire-based Clearwater Financial Planning, said if FSA staff were to hold a financial planning qualification, it would “probably engender more confidence among those who were regulated”.
He said: “It would show a lot more empathy with the regulated community. If staff had some hands-on experience and had worked within the profession, as opposed to coming from a big consultancy or quango-style background, it would create even more confidence among IFAs.”
Mr Carter suggested the issue could be considered by the incoming Financial Conduct Authority when it is recruiting staff.
Jason Ashman, director of Birmingham-based Chatfield Private Client, said confidence in the regulator was “crucial” and if IFA-facing staff held a level-four qualification it could boost confidence.
He said: “What is sometimes a gripe with IFAs is when we are doing our upmost to get qualified and then interface with a regulator who doesn’t have any appreciation of the world in which we live and work who has a tick-box mentality rather than using judgement.
“You must have confidence that the regulator understands the pressure you are under so it’s not unreasonable for IFAs to expect that staff, especially the representatives that visit regulated business, sit a few exams. It would also help if the FSA recruited more from within the financial planning industry.”
David Thomson, director of policy and public affairs for the Chartered Insurance Institute, said: “In the light of the new regulatory culture of the FCA, it is important they get the right blend of skills, including recruiting those with knowledge of working within the industry itself.”
Sue Whitbread, communications director for the Institute of Financial Planning, said: “For effective regulation to take place, the individuals involved need to have a clear and detailed understanding of how the firms they are regulating actually work in practice.
“Whether the best way to achieve this is for individuals to have professional qualifications is a possibility, but a greater understanding of the business issues should also be high on the list.”