Higher Apprenticeship in Providing Financial Advice

Posted: 20th of February 2013 by Anonymous

For those wishing to gain a wide understanding of the financial services market with financial planning advice as a specialisation, this advanced apprenticeship is ideal. It covers regulatory issues, investment products, planning skills and the actual process of providing advice to clients. Completion of the apprenticeship also enables progress to professional qualifications such as the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning or to Level 4 Higher Apprenticeships in finance-related subjects.

Who is this apprenticeship designed for?

The purpose of this framework is to provide a training scheme to qualify financial advisers in England. This framework is at Level 4 and aimed at financial advisers who are advising on retail investment advice, commonly known as a life policy, a unit in a regulated collective investment scheme, a stakeholder pension scheme or a personal pension scheme.

These qualified financial advisers can be restricted, offering just one organisation's products, or independent offering the full range of products.

The framework will take approximately 30 months to complete.

This apprenticeship programme would suit someone who has good communication and listening skills. Other relevant skills include numeracy, research, analytical, IT, self disciplined and good record-keeping skills. This programme would also suit individuals who have a good understanding of providing solutions to people’s financial needs and can interact with different kinds of people.

Those wishing to become apprentices should possess  the following skills and attributes:

  • self motivation to succeed within the industry;
  • self discipline and enthusiasm;
  • initiative;
  • capacity to develop organisational skills;
  • potential to complete the qualifications;
  • willingness to learn and apply that learning in the workplace;
  • willingness to work with due regard to health and safety;
  • willingness to adapt to different work roles;
  • capacity to cope in busy conditions;
  • willingness to communicate with a range of people;
  • numeracy and literacy.

Background to the Framework

This framework has been developed by the Financial Skills Partnership (Formerly the Financial Services Skills Council).

The purpose of this new Level 4 framework is to address a possible future shortage of financial advisers and help current advisers meet the new requirement for financial advisers which has increased from Level 3 to 4.   This framework will help employers meet the current skills shortages in the sector created by the new qualification requirement.

Research suggest that the age structure of the sector's population is skewed towards older cohorts with 37% of advisers over the age of 50.  This means that new advisers will need to be brought into the industry to replace advisers who are retiring or leaving because they are unable or unwilling to achieve the new requirement.

This framework will help current financial advisers meet the new qualification requirement, train new entrants to the sector from school, college or those individuals from different sectors.

The aims and objectives of the Level 4 framework will help employers' recruitment of financial advisers to the sector by providing a training programme that can attract and help retain people in the sector.

The framework will also contribute to training a new generation of advisers, especially important as the number of young recruits in the retail investment sector has been dwindling for a number of years and there is growing concern that there are not enough young advisers entering the industry.  In March 2009, only 3.7 per cent of advisers were 30 years old or younger (UK IFAs 2008, Datamonitor, November 2008).

The new framework requirement will also help raise the levels of competence, skills and knowledge of the workforce therefore contributing to the improvement of the quality of financial advice provided rather than through a stand alone qualification.

What do these apprenticeships offer?

Competence qualifications available to this pathway:

C1 - Level 4 Certificate for Financial Advisers Edexcel

Knowledge qualifications available to this pathway:

K1 - Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning - Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)

K2 - Level 4 Diploma for Financial Advisers - ifs School of Finance

K3 - Level 4 Diploma in Professional Financial Advice - SQA

K4 - Level 4 Diploma in Investment Advice (Private Client Advice Route) - Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment

K1 - K4 provide underpinning knowledge and understanding for C1.

It is the employer's or apprentice's choice as to which knowledge qualification to complete, most employers will provide guidance on this.

K1 - To complete the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning you need to pass all six units.  Holders of the first unit, Financial services, regulation and ethics, are authorised to advise under supervision while they work towards completion of the full Diploma.

Entrants have the option to undertake the Level 2 Key Skill in Application of Number or Level 2 Functional Skill in Mathematics and Level 2 Key Skill in Communication or Level 2 Functional Skill in English.

K2 - The Diploma for Financial Advisers consists of two core units, Unit 1: Financial Services, Regulation and Ethics (FSRE) and Unit 2: Advanced Financial Advice (AFA).

K3 - The Diploma is made up of six individual, mandatory units and all 6 are required to gain the full Diploma. Each of the units within the Diploma is delivered electronically through Calibrand’s e-assessment solutions. Units 1 to 5 are multiple choice based examinations and unit 6 is delivered electronically through an essay style examination which is also assessed electronically.

K4 - The Investment Advice Diploma (Private Client Advice Route) consists of three units: 1. FSA Regulation & Professional Integrity, 2. Investment, Risk & Taxation and 3. Private Client Advice.

Once qualified as a competent retail investment adviser with the FSA, there is an annual requirement of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of which 21 hours must be structured.

For those who wish to continue their development of skills and qualifications beyond the Higher Apprenticeship, opportunities exist to progress to higher level professional qualifications, including:

  • CII Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning
  • BA/MSc in Financial Services - for more information visit the UCAS website - www.ucas.ac.uk
  • In-house training and development programmes

On completion of the Higher Apprenticeship and work experience gained, firms can register individuals as a registered retail investment adviser with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). This role is also known as a financial adviser. The Higher Apprenticeship can also provide progression to managerial roles of financial advice organisations.

Progression routes to other jobs include the role of a Director managing their own financial advice practice organisation.

How do I apply?

Apprenticeships are jobs just like any other and employers are free to advertise vacancies and fill them in the way that best suits their organisation’s needs.  You should check for opportunities advertised in Notgoingtouni’s Jobs and Courses section and also on the National Apprenticeship Service web site.

Processes for recruiting apprentices should ensure they assess an applicant’s aptitude for working in financial services as well as their educational achievements. 

Initial assessment must be used to ensure apprentices can gain recognition for relevant prior learning and achievement. The process should also identify any additional support or reasonable adjustments that may be required to enable an apprentice to have a fair opportunity to demonstrate their ability.

Like many people working in financial services, entrants usually need to have a Criminal Records Bureau check and bankruptcy check carried out.

Entrants should be able to demonstrate to an employer and a learning provider:

  • a proven commitment to working with people, perhaps through school link courses or work experience;
  • attainment of GCSEs or equivalent;
  • an interest in financial services.

What qualifications will I need to be accepted?

Whilst there are no minimum academic entry requirements, to be successful on the programme entrants should preferably possess GCSEs in English, Maths and ICT at grades A to C which is generally required by employers, however, many employers are also interested in your skills and experience.

Other routes of entry including the 14-19 Diploma, Welsh Baccalaureate and Intermediate (Level 2)  and Advanced (Level 3) apprenticeships also provide a useful grounding for this Higher Apprenticeship.

Although there is no apprenticeship framework at Level 2 or 3 in financial advice, Apprenticeships in Providing Financial Services (Administration for Mortgage and/or Financial Planning pathway specifically) at Levels 2 and 3 and other subject areas would provide good alternative entry routes to the Higher Apprenticeship in Providing Financial Advice.

Stand alone qualifications such as the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Level 3 Certificate in Financial Planning, the Level 3 ifs School of Finance Certificate for Financial Advisers or the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS) Certificate in Investment Planning would also be good preparation for entering the sector and this Higher Apprenticeship programme.

How equality and diversity will be met

The FSP encourages providers and employers to accept alternatives to qualifications when entering onto this Higher Apprenticeship to ensure equality of access for people with learning difficulties. These alternatives include volunteering, employment, portfolio of evidence and non-accredited courses.

Inequalities in the financial services sector and workplace persist for women and there is evidence that new mothers face downward mobility once they return to the labour market. A recommendation in the Fair Access to the Professions Report (July 2009) is to provide Apprenticeships with flexible entry and progression into the professions which can support mid-career, career interchange and career returner opportunities.

Research suggests that less than a third of all managers and proprietors (30%), and barely one in every eight professionals and technical staff in the financial services sector, are women. These findings are corroborated by information from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), which suggests that women earn a lot less than men in financial services.

For the last two years the FSP has been running its "Through the Glass Ceiling" programme. Whilst the main gender imbalance in the sector is at senior management level, there are also imbalances at other levels in the different sub-sectors.

Under the FSP's Equality and Diversity policy, they are committed "to achieve a workforce that reflects, at all levels, the diversity of the UK's population", so they will be working with the unions to bid for future funding, under Women and Work and other programmes, to create projects that will help address these imbalances. Their aim is to see the progression, not just of women, but of all under-represented groups.

On and off the job guided learning hours (GLH)

The total number of Guided Learning Hours (GLH) to be delivered on and off-the-job for the Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Providing Financial Advice is as follows.

The delivery time for this new Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Providing Financial Advice is expected to be over a 30 month period. For those aged 19 and over who have been assessed as having some accreditation or recognition of prior learning, then the duration can be less, but must never be less than 6 months.

Level 4 Certificate for Financial Advisers - 253 GLH;

Level 4 Diploma in Investment Advice (Private Client Route) - 105 GLH

 ( minimum GLH qualification in all pathways);

Level 2 Key Skill in Application of Number or Level 2 Functional Skill in Mathematics – 45 GLH;

Level 2 Key Skill in Communication or Level 2 Functional Skill in English - 45 GLH;

FSP Apprentice Workbook - 35 GLH;


The total number of the GLH for this framework is 700.  The remaining 217 GLH can be mentoring or learning that is undertaken in the workplace which is related to the framework over the 30 month period.

After consultation with employers and providers in the sector, the minimum number of off-the-job guided learning hours for this framework is 100 hours per year.  Further off-the-job guided learning can also be provided to exceed the minimum requirement.

Case study - Mark - IFA

Mark works as an independent financial adviser (IFA) for a large financial services company giving advice on pensions and retirement as well as other financial products including income protection, critical illness and life insurance, mortgages and investments for individuals and small companies.

I chose this career as I wanted to work within the realms of financial advice as an IFA and liked the idea of being self-employed as well as the potential for earning in the region of between £70k and £80k per annum.

I started off by working in a bank as an adviser and moved into direct selling financial advice where I could learn more about different products and finance on the job. I became interested in general life insurance and product development/progression, from personal pension plans (PPPs) to funded unapproved retirement benefit schemes, FURBS, and all points in-between. They gave me generic knowledge and product training, one-to-one product selling and multi-sales. On the recommendation of a friend, I applied to a trade advert in a publication called Financial Advisers/Money Management and sent my CV and covering letter and was successful.

For anyone interested in a career as an IFA or pensions adviser, I would suggest joining a large organisation and training on-the-job. You need to take advantage of any courses and continuing professional development (CPD) on offer and be prepared to update your knowledge regularly as the industry is constantly changing.

The financial services industry is very much a people business and you must be prepared to talk to people face to face. You need to be a good conversationalist as it is essential to build up a rapport with clients.

As an adviser, I find clients, gather information and get to know as much as I can about their expenditure, pensions, assets/debts, income requirements, expectations and goals as possible and analyse it all with a view to making appropriate recommendations about an individual's situation.

What appeals to me about the job is that you get to see people from all walks of like and all age groups, from arranging an annuity for a retired person to sorting out a group company pension scheme for an 18-year-old.

There is a downside to the role and the nature of the paperwork can be tedious. Documents have to be sent out to people both electronically and as hard copy; copies of applications and suitability letters have to meet the legal requirements.

Another challenge is keeping track of developments in the industry, which can be time consuming; for example, recent changes in the retirement date for those born 1954-60 who can then take their pensions five years earlier will in itself lead to an increase in form filing due to the legislative changes.

Related Articles>>

* Introduction to Banking and Finance Apprenticeships

* Accountancy training with the National Audit Office

* Looking at a finance apprenticeship

Discussions related to this article

Cookies: By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more details see our cookie policy.