Why qualify to advise on protection and insurance

21 September, 2020Ouida Taaffe
Wind in the Willows illustration

Legally, you don't need a qualification to advise on protection and insurance. But as consumers increasingly demand financial cover, a recognised qualification will help you prove your value as an adviser – and help your business demonstrate SMCR compliance.

Before Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows, he was the secretary of the Bank of England. The book is often read as an allegory.

Badger, representing the Bank, knows the “hundred things one has to know” about the Wild Wood – ie the City. These are things that have “got to be known if you’re small, or you’ll find yourself in trouble”.

Image credit: Books Benches, Wind In The Willows by Martin Pettitt is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Why financial advice matters

The Bank of England still steps into disputes, but it encourages and stipulates much more far-reaching consumer protections today than it did in 1908 – and for good reason.

Justine Paul is Head of Adviser Learning at Sesame Bankhall Group.

“There are more than 100 companies that provide life assurance and protection policies,” she says, “so the market is competitive, which can only benefit customers, but can make it a more complex environment.”

That thicket of products is one of the reasons why consumers often need turn to advisers for help.

Protection adviser qualifications

Regulated advisers undertake a long journey to become fully qualified. For example, the Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice (CeMAP) takes 12 months to study and requires continual professional development (CPD) to remain compliant.

That’s why we’ve launched the Certificate in Protection (CertPRO).

CertPRO is an entry-level qualification in advising on protection and can get you started in a professional career. Not only does it provide knowledge you can build on, it can be credited towards CeMAP.

As things stand, there’s no requirement for anyone advising on financial protection to be qualified. Someone working in a bank who advises on insurance products has to demonstrate 15 hours of CPD a year, but nothing more.

How qualifications support SMCR training and competence

If a qualification in protection advice is not mandatory, how do managers know that their staff are keeping up to date with training?

That can be tricky, but they have a strong incentive to try.

The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) rules came into force in 2019.  SMCR makes all managers in a controlled function personally responsible for the competence of their staff in a regulated environment.

A dedicated qualification allows those managers to demonstrate that their staff are competent.

But the value of really knowing what you are doing as an adviser is, ultimately, in protecting individuals and families and so, the whole economy.

“Qualifications raise standards and the profile of a market, helping to advocate to customers that it is important and valuable to have a specialist in this area,” says Justine Paul.

“Consulting with a protection adviser is far more likely than a few clicks online to lead to enhanced financial wellbeing.”

Why consumers need advice on protection and insurance

Getting good financial advice costs consumers money. Worse, mis-selling scandals have made people sceptical of financial protection. They often only find out its value when it is too late.

“Advisers generally are a good bunch,” says Justine Paul.

“They have their customers interests at heart. They know financial protection needs can be significant and wide-ranging, but that a family’s budget is not.”

She points out, for example, that protecting a mortgage might appeal to a houseowner, but be the wrong choice. Often what a family really needs is income protection to allow them to keep living in the house and pay the bills.

Talking through actual circumstances with a trained adviser helps people put limited resources to the best use.

“The right policy must be recommended, and the customer educated – not just on its suitability but its life-enhancing value,” says Justine Paul.

CertPRO will teach advisers about the many different ways of protecting the customer and how to explain the right choice. That’s vital in a dynamic market that’s changing all the time.

And advisers will be able to build on CertPRO. Their journey will not only help them understand the “hundreds of things to know” but also, ultimately, benefit society.

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Find out more about our Level 3, Certificate in Protection (CertPRO)