I couldn’t put a figure on how many IFAs have decided to become qualified at level6 for pensions because of the influence of chartered status for themselves or through their firm, but I’m sure it will continue to grow in the coming years.
It will become the industry standard for those IFAs in practice advising a sophisticated client bank on their pension investments.
Just think back to June. The FCA are also keen on advisers having the appropriate level of qualifications 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 and the ceding scheme includes ‘’safeguarded’’ benefits, an adviser firm now needs to have the extended their permissions to advise on transfers and conversions of safeguarded benefits to flexible benefits – for example, those with a GAR. This is not the full pension transfer permissions, but an extension and registration of the firm for this authorisation with the FCA.
This advice on the transfer or conversion of ‘’safeguarded’’ benefits must be provided (or checked by), a pension transfer specialist (PTS), even where crystallisation takes place and access to the pension savings is immediate. This has removed the previous exception where crystallisation did not require a PTS sign-off.
There is a momentum building 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
And advice on transfers from occupational pension schemes (e.g. money purchase EPP) where there are no safeguarded benefits, does not require a PTS. This is a relaxation on the previous rules and opens up some alternative options for advisers.
There is a momentum building 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.
You will be well aware that was within CP15/12 and you don’t need me to spell it out, 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 huge commitment to pass a 3hr exam with a 55% pass mark.
What if it doesn’t suit your learning style?
Is there an alternative to the AF3?
Yes, there is. There are now 4 opportunities a year to get a PTS qualification.
I’ve spent the couple of weeks looking at the iFS AWPETR (Award In Pension Transfers) course.
Here is the interesting thing, the iFS AWPETR has a different approach to assessment.
The 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).
It is specifically focused on or around pension transfers and although doesn’t cover as much ground as the AF3, it does cover CETV and TVAS in detail.
Most importantly for me, it complements the AF3 and provides 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.