Hobson’s choice on broker exams

To advise on reversion schemes we have to have qualifications, so we are at the mercy of the examining organisations when it comes to the fees they demand, says Sue Read

I’ve always been a strong defender of the need for industry regulation. But alongside this comes a requirement for the individuals involved to be suitably qualified.

While I personally detest taking exams, as you may have picked up from reading this column, I have ploughed my way through quite a number of them to prove my competence to regulators and clients alike.

Already in possession of the full Certificate in Financial Planning and the Mortgage Advice Qualification, a couple of years ago I embraced the need for an additional qualification in lifetime mortgages, buckled down and obtained CF7.

I welcomed the news that reversion schemes are to be regulated in the same way as other equity release schemes, as I believe that until this happens the former will be regarded as somehow shady.

Although I have yet to be completely convinced that these schemes offer real value I can understand that for some clients they could be the right option.

Perhaps naively, I had believed that the qualification I had undertaken would be sufficient to cover all types of equity release scheme. So I was somewhat disgruntled to learn recently that I have to take an additional top-up exam to give advice on reversion schemes.

Of course, I could simply decide not to offer advice on reversions, but somehow that doesn’t sit well with my desire to be truly independent and to be able to investigate and understand all options for clients. So I will have to take the exam.

The top-up exam has 30 questions all of which are multiple choice. So it isn’t a particularly long-winded paper to sit. And it is marked instantly as it’s one of those newfangled exams.

Terrific, I thought. This should not require too much extra study. It comes in at a price of £47 for the exam and £27 for the study guide. I’m sure the Chartered Insurance Institute regards this as excellent value, but for those of us who have already forked out for the CF7 exam in the belief that this was all we would need to advise on reversions, the cost seems somewhat excessive.

And then a colleague told me the other day that to get the advanced CeMAP qualification one needs to spend about £2,000 on exam fees and special guides.

Many larger firms will have the resources to cover such costs but smaller companies and one-man bands will surely struggle to find such sums, even if they pay in instalments.

Sadly, it’s Hobson’s choice – the CII knows that to practice we must have passed the right exams so we are pretty much at its mercy in respect of the money involved to obtain the necessary qualifications.

I know there’s a large organisation behind the CII that costs money to run, and I don’t begrudge people earning a living. Nevertheless, it’s time for someone to speak out and ask two questions – first, whether some of these exams are necessary and second, whether the fees involved in taking them can be justified.