Q. What exams must advisers have under their belts by December 2002 and what are the consequences if they fail to meet this deadline?
Advisers need to get CeMAP Papers One, Two and Three. If they already have CeFA or FPC, they need to complete the Bridge paper or equivalent exam. If advisers do not pass the exams by the deadline, they will not be able to give advice ‘ it is as simple as that. Advisers must register with the Mortgage Code Compliance Board (MCCB) to say they have passed the exams and will be unable to continue advising on mortgages if they do not meet this criteria.
Q. What areas do the compulsory exams cover?
They generally cover financial services and its environment, topics such as legislation, regulation and compliance. Specific areas covered by Paper One include taxation, economic factors, product providers and services.
Paper Two covers practice, products and policy, such as mortgage applications, mortgage law, payment methods, post-completion matters and market practices.
Paper Three is about giving advice. Together they test a wide range of knowledge important to the day-to-day work of mortgage advisers.
Q. Realistically, how long will it take advisers to prepare and study for the exams?
It is very much dependent on individual adviser’s knowledge of the marketplace. We are finding a lot of individuals are coming into the exams with weak knowledge in certain areas. This is being found where advisers are not practising certain areas on a daily basis. We recommend people do between 40 and 60 hours’ of study per paper. Any less preparation than this and they will struggle through the exams.
Q. Is there a high proportion of advisers who have yet to pass the exams?
The majority of advisers are either qualified or part-qualified at the moment. The MCCB has already said it is concerned that a minority of advisers have yet to start the process.
But I would suspect the majority are through, with more having registered and currently working towards qualifications. There are about 65,000 to 70,000 advisers and we believe around 60,000 advisers have already registered or passed.
Q. For those advisers who have not yet registered to take the exams, what should be their first step to get on track?
There are still some stragglers and we would advise them not to leave it until the last minute. To register they can contact ifs customer services and they will organise study books and registration. It is a simple process.
Advisers need to get on the bandwagon and not leave it too late. They can take exams up until the last day before the deadline, but I would not recommend it because if they fail they will have to deal with the consequences. When it comes to taking the exams, we have just introduced the facility for advisers to sit the exams and get the results on the same visit in 150 test centres across the UK. You can take all three CeMAP exams and the Bridge Paper in test centres from January. Advisers can take touch-screen tests and as they leave the centre they get an immediate result. This means there will be a lot less time and hassle for advisers when taking the exams.
Q. With more advisers getting qualified, what effect do you think it will have on the industry as a whole?
Having more qualified advisers will raise standards throughout the industry. Customers will have more confidence and awareness that advisers are qualified, that they have the best understanding of the market. It will standardise advisers’ knowledge where, at the moment, there are huge gaps in the market. There are no areas that particularly stand out as weak areas for advice ‘ it really is across the board.
Q. Are there any other exams advisers can take on a voluntary basis to expand their knowledge and increase their skills?
There is a multitude of good educational exams in the marketplace, not just from our institute. We have well over 80 modules which people can take within the exam structure. We have over 16 exams from certificate, diploma, degree to masters level which individuals can look at on a voluntary basis. Within our modules there are a variety of subjects from marketing and sales to e-commerce and investment. But I must stress that individuals will learn what is appropriate to them and one of the biggest areas advisers need to look at is the continuation of professional development ‘ keeping their knowledge up-to-date.
Q. What support is there to help advisers through the exam process?
We are launching public training courses for next year. Revision notes, computer-based training, exam packs, past papers and e-learning packages are easily available through our and other institutes. There is a lot of support available to advisers, so even if they have not taken exams for a long time, there is help at hand to get them through.