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Feeling Insignificant? Why Certificate Level Exam-Takers Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Feeling Insignificant? Why Certificate Level Exam-Takers Shouldn’t Be Ignored

This article is relevant to anybody who wants to further their career in the financial services industry, whether you are at Certificate Level or Diploma Level.

Since it’s introduction in 2012 there has been so much focus on Diploma Level financial services exams and understandably so as the Diploma is the major qualification in the industry.  However, has this been to the detriment of those sitting Certificate Level exams?  Whilst the diploma will inevitably be the right option for many individuals, the concern is that employers are shifting their focus from Certificate to Diploma Level in all areas of the business, rather than widening their focus to incorporate those sitting the Diploma in addition to those sitting Certificate Level exams.

BIG Mistake

I would strongly argue that this is a big mistake for any company that is looking for long-term stability and success.  Certificate Level exams provided by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) and other professional bodies are there to provide a solid grounding for individuals working in the financial services industry in non advice roles. And that in itself should not be misunderstood.  For those who had experience of the CII predecessor, the Financial Planning Certificate (FPC), you would be surprised at the difference between that and the equivalent qualification today, the Certificate in Financial Services. The difficulty level in the CII’s Certificate in Financial Services is far higher than the old FPC, and in order to gain a pass, the student has a lot more to learn.

So regardless of the Diploma, there is a strong need to help individuals trying to achieve the Certificate. The difficulty level should not be under-estimated.  However in the long term, spending more time assisting those with the Certificate can only help those same students in the future when they come to sit Diploma Level exams. In particular, the CII’s Diploma in Financial Planning exams are extremely tough.  If an individual only just scraped through the Certificate Level without a solid grasp of the subject, they will have a long and tough time ahead of them.

We should focus on both Certificate and Diploma

If we focus on our Certificate Level students as well as our Diploma Level students, we will produce staff who have a thorough, genuine knowledge and understanding of the industry.  They will then be able to go on to the Diploma feeling more confident, and I would argue that as a result the pass rates for the Diploma would increase.  This would also mean lower re-sit costs, more confident, knowledgeable and content staff, which can only benefit customers.

What will happen if we don’t support certificate level students?

What will happen if we provide little or no support to Certificate Level students?  We will end up with employees who have a very loose grasp of the industry.  Many of them will then attempt the Diploma, and struggle to pass any of the exams.  This means higher training costs, more re-sit costs, more despondent staff and higher staff turnover. It will also mean lower quality potential employees to employ from elsewhere to fill those gaps.  And if we look at the bigger picture, this will be to the detriment of the industry as a whole.  As many older advisers leave, there are going to be gaps for new, younger advisers to fill.  But if we don’t have the numbers and quality needed due to lack of support for employees starting out in their career, then the industry will suffer.

It’s not a case of choosing to assist one set of students over another.  It’s a case of looking to the longer term and helping them all in equal measure.  In the longer term, supporting our staff with qualifications at ALL levels, can only be money well spent.