Mandatory degree another step towards professionalism

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The Financial Planning Association (FPA) continues to push for advising to be recognised as a profession, and hope their new mandatory degree requirement will be a step in the right direction.

Two years ago the FPA launched the initiative, which will kick in from 1 July this year. Currently, financial planners must sign a professional code of conduct and ethics, have a diploma qualification and one year’s work experience to become a practitioner member. From 1 July 2013, it will also be mandatory for new members to have an approved degree qualification (or other degree with an approved bridging course). Current members will not be forced to gain the degree, says FPA CEO Mark Rantall.

After the announcement of new legislation to enshrine the terms “financial planner/adviser” yesterday, many advisers called for mandatory membership of an association such as the FPA. Rantall says that while the legislation is a good first step, the FPA is still of the view that “if financial planning wants to be regarded as a profession, then it is important that everybody is part of a professional community and signs up to a professional association”.

He says that if the financial planning sector is serious about being regarded as a respected profession, then at some point, a minimum degree requirement will be essential. “As we all know, RG146 as an entry standard to advise people about their life and financial affairs, is too low a standard.”

There has been a trend towards people choosing financial planning as a career path from university, rather than ending up in it at a later stage in life. A newly established financial planning council has worked with 17 universities across the country to define and approve curriculum for financial planning courses.

Rantall says it was a great move forward in achieving the professional pathways that other professions already had in place. “In the last few years we’ve made some quite amazing strides towards the infrastructure that’s required to put in place a respected profession.”

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