A CISI spokesperson says: “Sometimes we might be commissioned by a regulator to develop qualifications that are then freely and widely open to all to sit.
“In every case we have an exam panel comprising a wide variety of individuals and specialists in that particular field, who help develop the syllabus.
“Our policy is that qualifications are best developed with various interested parties to be most effective in the marketplace, but should be open to all.”
When the news of the pilot unit emerged, as first reported on FTAdviser, it prompted a big reaction from other financial advisers, especially after details about SJP’s fees hit headlines.
Julia Kirkland, senior partner at Financial Services Training Partners, says that the initial decision to grant SJP a two-year exclusivity deal is likely to have stoked additional controversy due to SJP’s fee structure.
“They are a significant player in the market, and despite Mifid II [there are questions about] their pricing structure.”
Ms Kirkland adds that despite the introduction of Mifid II, there is a general lack of transparency on fees in the sector.
Research in July conducted by Candid Financial Advice showed that an investor who would have invested £1m over a 20-year horizon would have incurred almost £1m fees for SJP.
Responding to the comments and to the research, a spokesperson for SJP said: “Independent research shows that [SJP] has competitive fees compared to other fully advised wealth management services in the UK.
“There were fundamental flaws in the analysis carried out by Candid Financial Advice, which can only serve to mislead consumers.”
The spokesperson added: “There is of course no link between the Candid analysis and SJP’s commitment to professional development, which is highlighted by the SJP Academy and our community of over 860 chartered planners.”
Jeannie Boyle, chartered financial planner at EQ Investors, says: “Anything to do with SJP attracts controversy, particularly given the recent news stories about them.
“But more broadly, anyone paying fees to the CII should be given equal access to opportunities.”
But not all advisers share the view that granting SJP exclusivity, if implemented, is unjust.
Martin Bamford, chartered financial planner at Informed Choice, says any qualification that will help raise standards, particularly around vulnerable clients, is a good thing.
He adds: “Whether that is exclusive to small set of advisers or open to everyone is still raising standards.
“It is very easy to bash SJP, they are a salesforce and have a lot of high charges. That criticism is fair but should not prevent them from upping their skills.”
Mr Bamford adds that it is natural that SJP or any other adviser would want exclusivity if they had invested in developing a pilot unit in the way SJP has for this pilot unit.