Part three: consolidating the knowledge
In this, the final of a series of articles, I continue to share with you some of my experiences in what will hopefully take me down the path of obtaining my certificate in advanced mortgage advice.
The level 4 qualification unit, R07, is assessed in a two-hour exam. There are 55 multiple choice questions followed by four case studies which have an additional five multiple choice questions each; a total of 75 questions in all.
Anyone wishing to take this exam would need to give time and effort in order to pass, which will vary considerably depending upon an individual’s background and experience within the industry.
Advisers may be involved in some parts of the exam content during the course of their usual business, whereas other areas could be considered niche.
Completion of the R07 unit, including study materials, revision support and exam entry, typically costs £189 for Society of Mortgage Professionals members and £265 for non-members.
I am convinced the benefit of the exam far outweighs the cost and time to do it because advisers can subsequently differentiate themselves from their counterparts just as chartered individuals do in the pensions and investment arenas.
One of the many reasons I wanted to go through this particular qualification is that we are now on the fourth different prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer since I qualified to give advice on mortgages.
These individuals all had their different views and influences on the property and mortgage market and brought in changes ranging from Stamp Duty relief, changes to how Stamp Duty Land Tax is calculated (residential and buy-to-let), shared ownership, Help to Buy schemes and so on. Next up, we have changes to buy-to-let (BTL) income calculations.
On that last change, mortgage advisers are not required to have detailed tax knowledge for BTLs and capital gains but I wanted to understand more of the detail. I feel that without sufficient background knowledge an adviser is at risk of looking out of touch with the market. Of course, this is not to imply that advisers should start to give tax advice, but shouldn’t the adviser explain why the client may need to seek specialist advice? The level 4 qualification addresses some of these issues.
For example, I learnt only recently that obtaining a self-build mortgage as part of a new build project for a buy-to-let property could prevent an individual from being eligible to reclaim VAT on the building material costs. This could be useful background knowledge for advisers entering the new build market.
Up-to-the-minute background knowledge of this sort equips an adviser to best help their clients and raise the adviser’s credibility in their client’s mind.
A client is much more likely going to seek tax advice if they understand why it is necessary in their situation. For instance, calculations for taxes such as capital gains can give advisers the ability to correctly estimate their client’s assets and liabilities ahead of paying for tax advice and making big transactions.
Another useful tip I picked up during my revision workshop for the exam was to do the case studies first as they require more focus. Spending 15 minutes on each case study would then leave an hour for the multiple choice questions – allowing for enough time for each element of the exam.
The concept of over-learning might be a useful tool to employ. In essence, if you spend enough time with information and keep relearning it, there is a much better chance of retaining the knowledge and accessing it whenever you need it. Spending too much time with the same information is therefore never a bad thing, despite the fact that over-learning sounds like a negative thing.
I hope that through these articles I have given you some encouragement to start a new piece of professional development and perhaps even one or two new ideas to help you along the way to achieving the results you want.
If you are undecided about a new qualification, I highly recommend the level 4 mortgage qualification. So why not make a start by reading the syllabus and see what you think?
In my view, it offers far more than just something to add to your CV; increasing your knowledge exponentially, generating greater respect from clients and equipping you to ensure they get the best value for their money.
And for those who might be wavering, particularly if they feel they are already doing sufficient CPD as part of their job anyway, I would argue that deciding to pursue L4 status is a manageable extension of what you are already doing.
True, it is more structured, but if you are able to assimilate this beneficial extracurricular study into your schedule, there is no better way to broaden your horizons and expand your business or personal career within the mortgage profession and into the wider financial services sector.
As Mortgage Solutions reported last week, more than 1,000 brokers have already achieved the level 4 qualification.