Your Industry  

Getting better all the time

Gavin Tisshaw

My good friend and predecessor in writing this column Dr Peter Williams inspired me to consider a different perspective to that of professional qualifications – the world of academia.

Dr Williams obtained the first doctorate in financial services in the UK, and I believe only a handful more have since achieved that significant milestone.

I have, largely due to the Life Insurance Association’s influence, always been a great believer in taking ongoing professional qualifications to help improve my knowledge and hopefully my ability to better serve my clients. This meant that I was fortunately ahead of the game when adviser qualifications became mandatory, firstly when the financial planning certificate was introduced, and more recently with the Retail Distribution Review and level 4 qualifications.

Article continues after advert

Over the years several people have said to me: “Oh, of course, it’s easy for you because you don’t mind exams,” but that’s simply not true. The difference is that I believe that I need to keep taking relevant courses and exams to improve myself, and that it is vital we all keep learning throughout our careers. Indeed, continuing professional development requirements within the advisory sector of financial services are far better focused and more relevant than in many long-standing professions, which is something we should be proud of.

However, I am not a natural academic, as my educational background will attest. I left school at 16 with only a couple of ‘O’ Levels. All the qualifications I have gained since have been done while working – when I was young I was simply not ready and did not know how to learn from the traditional education system.

Following this non-academic start to my career I was therefore pleased over time to become chartered, and then a fellow of the Personal Finance Society (PFS), as well as gaining Certified Financial Planner status from the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP).

The big question for me at this stage though was, where to next? There did not at the time appear to be much information and guidance available on what to do after Fellowship of the PFS.

Most of our professional qualifications are now benchmarked to the national qualifications framework, which means that exemptions can be granted on entry to many courses, and so my search began.

It was interesting to discover that with my chartered and fellowship status, I could enrol on a part-time Masters course (financial planning and business management) at Manchester Metropolitan University, and in theory complete this in just under a year. An added bonus was that the IFP recognised the course and would grant their Fellowship on successful completion.

So I started my Masters last February, and handed in the final piece of work, my dissertation, on 7 December. I will not hear the result for a while now but it was certainly a relief to ‘put it in the bin’ after an exhausting amount of work.