In the six years since the words ‘Retail Distribution Review’ were first uttered, one of the most contentious points of the regulator’s plan has been the increase in qualifications for Financial Advisors.

The move to a minimum level of qualifications – QCF level four – has had a dividing impact on financial services professionals; with those who believe it will help Financial Advisors to be taken more seriously and others who feel experience matters more than exams.

Exam time

Whichever camp you fall into, one thing is certain: if a Financial Advisor does not hold the minimum level of qualification by the RDR deadline of 31st December 2012, they will no longer be able to practise.

There will be no room for manoeuvre in 2013 if you do not have the right qualifications so it is imperative that Financial Advisors who wish to keep giving advice work hard to hit the deadline.

For those thinking of a career in advice, do not be put off by the exam talk – many financial services graduates are already qualified to the correct level and if not, there are lots of professional bodies which can advise you on the best way to reach the benchmark.

If you are currently a Financial Advisor you may need to top up your qualification credentials with some additional exams although established Advisors shouldn’t find the exams too taxing.

The key for both established Financial Advisors and new talent is not to delay. The professional bodies which set the exams have said they will put on extra sittings in the run up to the RDR deadline but you need to book early to ensure you get a place.

There isn’t much time left to complete your exams so you need to make the most out of the time you have left, following these top tips for successful studying:

  1. Set out a revision schedule
    Not having enough time is an oft-quoted excuse so set out a study timetable to make the best use of your time. Set out different topics for study over a two or three month period to ensure you cover each topic thoroughly.
  2. Decide when and where
    Almost as important as your revision schedule is working out where and when you should study. Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, make sure you study at a time when your energy levels are highest. Also make sure that there are minimal distractions, whether that is at home, in the office or at the local library.
  3. Get support
    Use the exam support that is offered to you. There are lots of revision courses offered for free by life insurance companies that you can take advantage of. Look out for online tutorials and peer discussion groups. If you can’t find what you need it may be worth setting up a local revision group of your own.
  4. Practise makes perfect

Many Financial Advisors have decades of knowledge built up but may not have sat an exam for years. Do not get caught out by the way exam questions are worded by completing test papers to get a feel for the types of questions you may come up against.

The RDR will be a challenge for Financial Advisors but preparing properly for exams now will see you reap the rewards next year.

For further ideas from the experts at IDEX, please download our eGuide Four Ways to Progress Your Career as a Financial Advisor.