What is the CII?

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) is a professional body for the financial planning and insurance industries, with global network of over 100,000 members in 150 countries. The financial planning division of the CII is called the Personal Finance Society (PFS) [1]. Within the financial planning industry, “CII” and “PFS” are often used interchangeably. For this article, we’ll refer to the “CII” rather than the “PFS”, although we are focusing exclusively on financial planning.

The CII aims to raise professional standards, build public trust, and support the professional development of its members [2]. We mentioned the concept of “professionalism” a lot there. There has been some debate over the years about whether financial planning is a “profession” or an “industry”. The dictionary definition of “profession” is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification” [3]. And, formal qualifications are exactly what the CII is best known for, offering a range of recognised and revered qualifications across investment, pensions, personal taxation, and numerous other specialist financial planning subjects [4].

Financial Planning Qualifications

Over time, this has helped to elevate financial planning to be widely considered a profession [5]; with financial planners perceived by the public as on the same level as solicitors and accountants. Since 2012, financial planners have had to hold an appropriate RQF Level 4 qualification – equivalent to the first year of an honour’s degree – in order to trade [6]. The list of appropriate qualifications is published on the website of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which is the main UK financial services regulator. And, while not required by law, a Level 4 qualification is now often demanded by employers for paraplanners, senior administrators, technical consultants, BDMs/account managers, and those in related roles.

The CII Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning is the CII’s benchmark Level 4 qualification. It is structured as six units comprising five multiple-choice exams and one written exam:


Exam Examination Method RQF Level Exam availability Pass Mark Study Hours Credits
R01 Financial Services, Regulation and Ethics 2-hour online multiple-choice exam, 100 questions 4 Year-round 65% 60 20
R02 Investment Principles and Risk 2-hour online multiple-choice exam, 100 questions 4 Year-round 65% 60 20
R03 Personal Taxation 1-hour online multiple-choice exam, 50 questions 4 Year-round 65% 50 10
R04 Pensions and Retirement Planning 1-hour online multiple-choice exam, 50 questions 4 Year-round 65% 50 10
R05 Financial Protection 1-hour online multiple-choice exam, 50 questions 3 Year-round 70% 50 10
R06 Financial Planning Practice 3-hour written exam based on 2 case studies which are released 2 weeks before the exam 4 4 times a year (Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct) 55% 100 30

R01, R02, and R03 contain core financial planning knowledge and concepts. Then R04 and R05 provide product areas. And R06 brings everything together in a single written exam.

There are similar qualifications offered for specialist financial planning areas which require their own qualification (as per the FCA appropriate qualifications table), such as investment management, securities advice, mortgages, long-term care planning, pension transfers, and equity release.

The CII is, of course, not the only place to get your appropriate Level 4 qualification to allow you to provide regulated advice. The London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF), among a number of others, offers its own qualification which is a mix of coursework and exams [6]. The CII route is much more technical, whereas the LIBF route tends to be more holistic and generalist [7]. The CII diploma is more extensive, and better regarded by some professionals within the industry, although it is more expensive and may take longer to complete [8].

What Support is Available?

If you decide to study for your CII Diploma, Expert Pensions offers a blended learning “package” solution for exams R01 to R05 (your multiple choice “technical” exams) and can refer you to an R06 (your written “financial planning” exam) specialist when the time comes.

Our packages consist of study notes written specifically for new industry entrants, 20+ videos for each exam, and a bank of practice questions. It is blended learning at its finest, written and presented by some of the best trainers in the UK.

In addition to being designed for new industry entrants, they’re also priced for new industry entrants, at just £99+VAT for each exam. You can find out more on our website: www.expertpensions.co.uk

Our reputation is solid, and our track-record speaks for itself. We help candidates get through their financial planning exams!

It can be daunting to start this process, so if you want to speak to someone, we’re only a phone call or e-mail away: 01506 676997, hello@expertpensions.co.uk

Once You’ve Completed Your Diploma

You may notice that there are “credits” awarded for each CII Diploma exam pass, and they add up to 100. What are these mysterious credits, and what do they do? This isn’t so relevant just now as a Level 4 adviser – but it becomes very much so when you want to take your next qualification step: Chartered Financial Planner status.

In this article, we’ve considered how the CII has helped to enhance the professionalism of, and public confidence in, financial planning. Next time, we’ll look at what a Chartered Financial Planner is, and how you can take a step up to the very pinnacle of the financial planning profession.


[1] The Chartered Insurance Institute, “About the CII,” 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.thepfs.org/about/about-the-personal-finance-society/the-chartered
[2] The Personal Finance Society, “About,” 2019. [Online]. Available:
[3] G. Dictionary, “Google,” 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.google.com/search?q=profession&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB801GB801&oq=profession&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i60l2j69i61j0l2.
[4] The Chartered Insurance Institute, “Qualifications,” 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.thepfs.org/qualifications/.
[5] Investopedia, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/financialplanner.asp.
[6] Financial Conduct Authority, “TC Ap