People gain qualifications for many reasons. For some, it is a basic job requirement, or a regulatory necessity. Others want to expand their knowledge and improve their career prospects. For many, it is simply the desire to achieve professional status in their chosen field. Updating your skills is always smart and enables you to become more effective in the workplace, helps you develop your career and gain access to different roles and options in an ever-changing contracting market. We provide a simple guide to point you in the right direction.


Choosing the right options

As with all careers there are several paths available to develop one’s skills and capability. Underpinning everything is research. You need to explore all the qualification options and choose what best supports your needs and ambitions. In contracting, the balance is always between what you want to do - and what clients are looking for. You will also need to factor in whether or not getting a professional qualification is worth the time and effort. Will it help your career? Will it bring you extra recognition or improve your income opportunities?

Qualifications add value to your personal and professional standing. It’s worth adding that for recruiters, qualifications can be a key determinant along with other skills e.g. team working, productivity, integrity, employment history etc. when sourcing candidates for a role. The more technical the role requirement the more likely a professional qualification will be part of the client’s specification.


A changing financial services market place: the end of PPI

Many of you will be aware that the deadline for filing payment protection insurance claims has been set for August 2019, drawing a line under the UK’s costliest consumer mis-selling scandal. UK banks have been forced to set aside more than £30bn for potential compensation costs and have been hit with substantial fines for mis-handling complaints. As this particular financial service episode draws to a close, ensuring one’s own competence and professional abilities are up to speed may seem increasingly sensible.


The two leading financial services industry bodies for training and professional development


There are two recognised mainstream options available if you want to gain professional qualifications in the financial services sector and the following quotes from their websites might be helpful:


The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)


This is the premier professional body for the insurance and financial planning professions. It promotes higher standards of integrity, technical competence and business capability. With 125,000 members in 150 countries, the CII is the world’s largest professional body dedicated to these sectors.
Its membership covers all disciplines within the insurance industry (claims, broking, underwriting and sales), those working in the life and pensions sector, the mortgage advice market and financial advisers (under the Personal Finance Society brand).
The CII’s market-leading insurance and financial services study programmes are driven by what’s happening in the industry and enjoy a high level of acclaim among professionals and organisations worldwide.
The planning profession’s qualification of choice
The RQF Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning meets the FCA’s qualification requirements for retail investment advisers, and develops core technical knowledge and financial planning capabilities across six compulsory units:

  • (R01) Financial services, regulation and ethics;
  • (R02) Investment principles and risk;
  • (R03) Personal taxation;
  • (R04) Pensions and retirement planning;
  • (R05) Financial protection; and
  • (R06) Financial planning practice.

The Diploma in particularly suitable for: 

  • Anyone seeking to give retail investment advice, in particular those who don’t hold additional CII credits counting towards completion of the Diploma in Financial Planning
  • Paraplanners, technical consultants and those in financial planning support roles

The benefits of a CII qualification include:

  • Progressive and flexible qualification structure - building on existing knowledge at each level, a flexible credit-accumulation system allows you to progress at your own pace.
  • Recognition of prior learning - credits are available towards CII qualifications for relevant third-party exams, reducing the time taken to complete, eliminating duplication of learning and reducing cost.
  • An unrivalled portfolio of learning and revision materials - enabling candidates and organisations to build bespoke learning programmes to suit their particular needs.
  • Market-leading designations and Chartered status - completion of CII qualifications provides access to the use of designations and titles that demonstrate achievement and professional standing.
  • A range of assessment methods - assessment methods vary and depend on a unit’s level and subject matter. From multiple-choice and written exams, through to coursework assessment mixed assessment (combining coursework and multiple-choice exams).


For more specific information:

The London Institute of Banking & Finance


Formerly the IFS, the Institute exists to advance banking and finance by providing outstanding education and thinking, tailored to the needs of business, individuals, and society.

Its focus is on lifelong learning; equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills and qualifications to achieve what they want throughout their career and life. It provides a balance of experience, insight and thought leadership into today’s financial world, delivered by industry leaders, thinkers and members of our community.

They offer relevant and flexible role-specific professional qualifications that help individuals and companies perform better. Qualifications are relevant to day-to-day roles regardless of experience, and allow individuals to tailor their learning so they have the building blocks and mark of professionalism to progress with pace.


The DipFA


This qualification is an industry benchmark qualification which meets the FCA’s qualification requirement for retail investment advisers. Highly relevant and practical, the programme is tailored to reflect the role of an IFA, providing you with the required knowledge and skills to apply the subject matter effectively in the workplace. 

The assessments comprise of case-study-based learning designed to replicate the real-life activities that advisers undertake and an assessment that is partly multiple-choice with results provided on the day.

The Diploma for Financial Advisers is a Level 4 qualification registered with Ofqual in the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). 


Read here for more information:


Timing and flexibility


The length of time it takes varies depending on the professional qualifications and of course on whether you are looking to achieve the full Diploma level or take specific elements only. Flexibility is often the key to completing a professional course, as most people study whilst working full-time. Many professional courses are done part-time or are offered through distance learning.

The key thing to remember is that a professional qualification isn’t a guarantee of that next contract role – but it may well help significantly.