The Chartered Insurance Institute has launched an exclusive qualification with St James’s Place tailored to those working with vulnerable clients.
The wealth management giant has been working with the CII over the past two years to develop the Inclusive Financial Planning Qualification, which is being offered as part of the programme advisers follow to become Chartered.
The Level 6 qualification is exclusive to SJP advisers and covers issues affecting advising vulnerable clients, particularly in respect of investments, pensions and protection.
Since its launch three weeks ago 140 SJP advisers have signed up to the qualification, a response Edward Grant, divisional director responsible for professional development at SJP, said was “significant” for a qualification in its early stages.
Mr Grant said the qualification was designed in response to a skills gap developing in the advice market in the hope it would address current "social themes".
He said: "The Retail Distribution Review was very focused on technical skills and knowledge, but we have been working very hard on the soft skills needed by advisers.
"We are very much focused on dealing with people and their needs and have identified this as a big area where there is a gap in terms of structure.
"We have spent a huge amount of time and money to develop this initiative and looking around there isn’t anything comparable - a lot of qualifications are technical oriented whereas what we are trying to do is more around the issues of dealing with people."
In July the Financial Conduct Authority published a consultation on introducing further guidance to help firms support vulnerable customers in a move long awaited by the industry.
The FCA said whilst many companies had made "significant progress" in how they treat vulnerable consumers the regulator was still finding cases where firms clearly failed to consider the needs of these customers.
The City watchdog pledge action against any company it found did not treat vulnerable customers fairly.
The qualification is assessment based, worth 30 Advanced Diploma credits and the second to be launched exclusively between the CII and SJP.
After two years the qualification will be available to the wider market, in a move Mr Grant said he hoped would raise standards in the broader advice profession as well as SJP.
Mr Grant said the cost of the Inclusive Financial Planning Qualification, at £350 for each adviser, was lower than the £450 usually charged for an advanced module as a result of SJP’s own investment in the programme.
Currently about 860 partners at SJP have Chartered status, the equivalent of 21.5 per cent, with the wealth manager aiming to increase this figure to 25 per cent by 2020.
Mr Grant said: "We’re very proud to be able to offer this new qualification to our partners, and firmly believe that ensuring vulnerable clients have access to the highest levels of knowledge and expertise available will generate a positive impact on client experience and quality of service overall.