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Exam Options for Support and Administration Staff – What You Need to Know

Exam Options for Support and Administration Staff – What You Need to Know

Discussions about exams and qualifications usually revolve around Level 4 (Diploma) or Level 6 and becoming Chartered or Certified.  However, many businesses have a need to train staff who have little or no knowledge of financial services, and who do not need to jump in at the deep end with Level 4 exams.  Here at Brand Financial Training we are often contacted by businesses who are not sure where to start with regards helping their support and administration staff learn what is necessary to understand and perform their role well.  The difficulty is knowing what path to put them on, and what qualification should be aimed for.  In this article, we will specifically look at the options offered by the CII.

Entry and introductory-level qualifications aren’t necessarily aimed at getting staff onto the path to Level 4, but the focus is on performing current job roles well.  The CII offer a number of routes and the focus here is on the qualifications that are best for those candidates.  Do note that there is a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications available but, confusingly, some are called ‘Awards’ and can be Level 2 or 3, and others are called Certificates and are at Level 3.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail of each qualification, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which qualification is best for which type of employee.  So here, we will discuss each qualification that we believe is relevant to entry and introductory-level candidates, but then we also go on to suggest some possible routes depending on the existing knowledge of your staff and their ultimate aim.

Award in Life and Pensions Foundations

At level 2, we have the Award in Life and Pensions Foundations, which currently has only one exam LF1 Life and pensions foundations, and is truly an entry-level qualification, providing a solid grounding in the key areas of life and pensions.  For some staff, it may prove to be a little too basic, but for those with no experience, it could be ideal to get them to dip their toes in exam waters.

Award in Financial Administration

For those who could do with a little more content, it may be worth going straight for the Level 3 Award in Financial Administration, aimed at support and administration staff, again working in life and pensions and is more in-depth than the Award in Life and Pensions Foundations.   Note that it is registered as RQF Level 3 despite being titled ‘Award’.

The Award in Financial Administration offers two routes.  Either way, you have to sit either

  • CF1 (Level 3 UK financial services, regulation and ethics) or
  • R01 (Level 4 Financial services, regulation and ethics)

and then you choose either

  • FA1 (Level 3 Life office administration) or
  • FA2 (Level 3 Pensions administration)

We tend to advise most of our business customers to look at this Award as the first port of call for support and administration staff working in life and pensions with no knowledge of financial services, rather than the Award in Life and Pensions Foundations.

Certificate in Investment Operations

If life and pensions aren’t the areas members of your staff are working in perhaps a more bespoke qualification may be suitable for example those working in operational investment roles, the Certificate in Investment Operations would be a good option.  To obtain the qualification, candidates must pass either

  • CF1 (Level 3 UK financial services, regulation and ethics) or
  • R01 (Level 4 Financial services, regulation and ethics)

and then

  • FA5 (Level 3 Individual savings account administration)

Certificate in Financial Services

A Level 3 qualification, the Certificate in Financial Services is aimed at operational and technical support roles and offers a ‘General Route’ which develops an understanding of the financial services in general and a ‘Life And Pensions’ route which focuses on understanding customer needs, solutions and products.

The ‘general route’ consists of two units :

  • CF1 (Level 3 UK financial services, regulation and ethics) or
  • R01 (Level 4 Financial services, regulation and ethics)

plus

  • LP2 (Financial services products and solutions)

and the ‘life and pensions’ route consists of 3 units:

  • LP1 Life and pensions customer operations and
  • LP2 Financial services products and solutions  
  • LP3 Life and pensions principles and practices   

Certificate in Regulated Financial Services Operations

For those who have completed the Award in Financial Administration or Certificate in Investment Operations, this is a great next step as it only requires the completion of an additional exam.  It’s ideal for those who require further product specific learning.

Candidates need to complete:

  • R01 Financial services, regulation and ethics or
  • CF1 UK financial services, regulation and ethics

and two from

  • FA1 Life office administration
  • FA2 Pensions administration
  • FA5 Individual savings account administration

Suggested Qualification Routes

The qualifications available can certainly be confusing, and it can be difficult to decide which route is best for your staff members.  We’ve taken a good look at what’s on offer and here are some suggestions for your staff.

If your staff have no prior knowledge of financial services, then it’s important that they learn the very basics first and then build on that knowledge.   What areas are studied first will depend very much on the job role.  Others, who may have some experience, may be equipped to jump in at a slightly higher level.

Life and Pensions – No Prior Experience

For an individual working in life and/or pensions with no financial services experience, the Level 2 Award in Life and Pensions Foundations may be the best first step with the Level 3 Certificate in Financial Services Life and Pensions route being the next step, as it provides more in-depth knowledge to the candidate.

Life and Pensions – Some Experience

For those individuals with some experience of working with life and/or pensions, they may be better equipped to jump straight in with the Level 3 Certificate in Financial Services Life and Pensions route.

If they work in a more administrative role, then it is worth considering the Level 3 Award in Financial Administration instead (although named ‘Award’ it is a Level 3 qualification).

It is well worth examining the syllabus for each of the exams, making up both of these qualifications, so that you choose the best route depending on the individual’s current and potential future job roles.

Investments – No or Some Prior Experience

Whilst at Level 3, the Certificate in Investment Operations is the best starting point for individuals working with investments, perhaps then opting to also complete the Certificate in Regulated Financial Services Operations with one extra exam. 

General ‘All Rounder’ – No or Some Prior Experience

For a more general qualification that doesn’t specifically focus on one particular area, such life and pensions or investments, the Level 3 Certificate in Financial Services is worth a look.

It’s certainly a positive that there are now qualification options tailored for support and administration staff ranging from those with no financial services knowledge, through to those who already have some understanding of the subject areas.  Whichever options work best for you and your staff, there is no doubt that a solid grounding in financial services can be gained through sitting exams.  The basic qualifications also provide a path onwards to Level 4 if that is what is ultimately required.

Grab the resources you need!

If you, or members of your staff, are embarking on a training path described above, we at Brand Financial Training offer resources that will contribute to study success. Grab our free taster to try out one of Brand Financial Training’s resources for yourself.  Click the link to download the R01 mock taster now!

Click here to download our free taster mock paper for CII R01

Alternatively, you can download taster resources for CF1, FA1, FA2 or LP2 if those exam resources are more relevant to your study needs.