Becoming chartered is an ambition of an increasing number of advisers.
It’s also an ambition of many businesses, with the requirements to becoming a Chartered business revised this summer:
Click here for more info on becoming a Chartered business

The CII is very committed to the ‘chartered’ concept; the CII have set out a vision and a set criteria for those firms who want to be called ‘Chartered’ and to obtain Chartered status as a firm by 1 January 2020, you will need 50% your advisers to personally hold chartered status; by 2017, it will have to be 25%.
That is a huge commitment for a business.

I’d guess, those changes have added £5kpa to a Chartered Financial Planner’s salary.

I couldn’t put a figure on how many IFAs have decided to become qualified at level 6 for pensions because of the influence of chartered status for themselves or through their firm, but it will continue to grow in the coming years. It will become the industry standard for those in practice advising a sophisticated client bank on their pensions, investments and tax status.

Do you still have doubts about that?

Just think back to June. The FCA are also keen on advisers being level 6 qualified in pensions; the FCA Policy Statement CP 15/12 made some significant changes to the permissions required to provide pension transfer advice on policies with “safeguarded benefits”. Where your client wants to move into flexible pension benefits (even at the point of crystallisation of the benefits) and the transferring scheme includes ‘’safeguarded’’ benefits, most of these cases need to be signed off by a competent pension transfer specialist.

There is a momentum within the community of financial advisers, their firms, their professional body and the UK Regulator to become qualified at the appropriate level for specialist advice.

The FCA may never call for all advisers to be ‘Chartered’, but they will require specialist advice for specialist areas; pensions being one of them.
The requirement to be ‘Chartered’ will be driven by the ever-sophisticated, internet-aware and ever-savvy retail consumer; it will happen automatically for those advisers ambitious to be working with sophisticated clients, offering personal advice not found on the internet.

Meantime, back to pensions; you will be well aware that was within CP15/12, but how do you go about getting qualified in pensions at the right level, to sign-off the advice for all your own clients, within your own firm?

You will be very familiar with the old G60 terminology, which was the appropriate examination for those acting as a pensions transfer specialist until April 2007, when the AF3 exam took over.
The AF3 has been around for a while, but it’s not getting any easier to pass. The CII pass rates hover around the 40-45% (expert pensions pass rates hovering around the 70-75%). The AF3 does require a big commitment from your diary. It does provide Chartered credits and it does give you Level 6 permissions.

But, what if it doesn’t suit your learning style?
Is there an alternative to the CII AF3 offering?

Yes, there is. There are now 4 opportunities a year to get a PTS qualification at Level 6; there is the CII AF3 and the iFS AWPETR (iFS Award in Pension Transfers).
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at the iFS AWPETR course, in detail.

You can see more here: click here

The next course start date is 28th September: click here

Here is the interesting thing; the iFS AWPETR has a different approach to assessment.
The iFS AWPETR is assessed by a written coursework piece of circa 2,000 words (25 marks) and a written examination with question values ranging from 5 – 15 marks (75 marks):

A total of 100 marks are available;
Students must pass both elements;
Must achieve 40% or higher in each of the coursework and examination.

Whilst it might be debatable as whether it’s as wide a syllabus as the AF3, it is definitely and specifically focused on or around pension transfers. Although arguably it doesn’t cover as much ground as the AF3, it does cover CETV and TVAS in detail.

If you are focused on getting PTS permissions for you or your firm, rather than Chartered status, this might be an option?

Most importantly for me, it is a viable alternative to the AF3, with a different assessment criteria which could be more attractive option for many busy advisers who are more inclined toward course work and who want a more focused approach to the subject of transfers.

The next intake for the iFS AWPETR is 28th Sept.

For the first time, here at expert pensions, we’re going to offer support for this course leading up to the exam on 3 December 2015.

We’ll be adapting our successful AF3 structured study plan and we’ll be taking a small cohort through the process, starting in October.
Combining all our pensions expertise, learning delivery and academic coursework experience, we’ll be building a course specifically for the iFS AWPETR.

I’ll be telling you more over the next few weeks, but if you are interested in joining a small group (of 6) for the iFS AwPETR exam – drop me a line.