If a career in Financial Services is something that interests you then the Qualified Financial Advisor (QFA) designation is an additional “notch to your belt” that every working professional in this area should consider.
The QFA constitutes of 6 exams that can be sat on an individual or grouped basis in January, May or September of each year through 2 official bodies: The Institute of Banking or the LIA. In more recent years, events such as the Irish banking crisis have caused the Central Bank to tighten controls around who exactly can provide professional advice on a person’s finances. The result of their actions has led to the amendment of the Minimum Competency Code.
As part of this review the APA Qualification or Accredited Product Adviser came into existence in 2011. The APA in its essence is essentially a stepping stone to full QFA status and should be viewed as such. It can be awarded after completion of 2 of the 6 exam modules in the QFA designation e.g. The Loans + Regulations modules entitles you to apply for a Professional Certificate in Mortgage Practice.
Examples of roles that require a QFA designation:
- Financial Planning Advisor
- Mortgage Arrears
- Pensions Administrator
- Wealth Management
- Business Banking
- Credit Analyst
Broaden your experience with a bridge into the insurance sector
The banking and insurance communities are inherently intertwined. To reflect this, The Professional Certificate in General Insurance is a 'bridge' qualification for QFAs who sell, advise on one or more of a set of agreed insurance related retail product categories. More information can be found here.
There is also a pure insurance APA qualification, the Professional Certificate in Insurance that is offered by The Insurance Institute, the professional education body for the general insurance industry. This is the entry level qualification and is how new entrants to the insurance sector secure their regulatory license and meet the requirements of the Central Bank's MCC.
This APA designation is awarded for the successful completion of three non-life insurance product categories (2 compulsory and 1 product). Once successfully completed, you are only another three modules away from obtaining the industry benchmark qualification the Professional Diploma in Insurance (CIP) through the successful completion of another 3 modules (1 product and 2 process).
Examples of roles that require an insurance APA designation:
- Direct customer support
Lifelong learning through CPD
As a further addition, individuals holding all designations listed above must be able to prove their competency regarding their ability to perform within their role. This is actioned through their undertaking of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which requires an individual to complete a minimum of 15 CPD hours per year if they wish to hold onto their QFA or APA/CIP status. These hours are usually obtained through the completion or attendance of official CPD accredited online courses or seminars.
Dermot Murray, newly appointed CEO of The Insurance Institute comments “many people forget how intertwined the insurance and banking communities are. The professional standards are also therefore strongly linked, to ensure that the customer is always protected and to allow for greater mobility”. Mr Murray who moved from Bank of Ireland recently to the organisation continues “I have long held the view that a key strength of the finance industry is that while competing fiercely, we educate together and I feel that this is something that all of these qualifications enable us to do.”
Are you a current QFA, APA or CIP holder? Are you a graduate looking to begin a career in Financial Services with an interest in pursuing additional studies to advance their career? We at the Banking & Insurance desk have roles in the area of Retail Banking, Pensions, General Insurance, Financial Advice and Commercial Banking.