Professional standards: advisers

All advisers must meet professional standards that we set and enforce.

Advisers must:

  • hold a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) issued by an accredited body
  • hold an appropriate qualification (as set out in our Training and Competence (TC) Sourcebook, specifically TC Appendix 4)
  • make sure you are clear about and continue to meet the ethical requirements set out in APER, which you must comply with as an approved person
  • recognise that we, and the body that issues your SPS, will hold you to account for these requirements

Roles, responsibilities and intended outcomes

Consumers:

  • are made aware of standards through FCA and accredited body communications
  • are encouraged to ask advisers for their Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) 
  • are encouraged by the adviser’s SPS to check the Financial Services Register to ensure advisers are approved
  • can complain to the firm if given unsuitable advice with ultimate recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service and potential recompense
  • may complain to the accredited body that issued the SPS if their adviser behaves unprofessionally
  • receive more consistent and better quality investment advice
  • know their adviser has attained and maintains high standards

Advisers:

  • must meet professional standards and make annual declaration to accredited body
  • are required to obtain an SPS from an accredited body
  • may be part of a sample of advisers asked to submit their records for review by an accredited body
  • need to invest personal capital in their professional capacity (CPD, cost of qualifications, accredited body fees)
  • are accountable for unethical behaviour
  • can benefit from help and support from accredited bodies
  • must meet the qualifications requirements to be able to give retail investment advice

Accredited bodies:

  • must apply to us for accreditation and enter into an agreement
  • are listed in the FCA Handbook
  • are subject to annual independent audit and ongoing FCA monitoring
  • should communicate standards and provide help and guidance to advisers, such as areas for CPD focus
  • verify that advisers meet the required standards in all areas that issue annual SPSs
  • ​alert us to issues and may act to discipline advisers
  • may rescind or refuse to issue an SPS
  • promote the profession to consumers and new entrants, eg they may publish a register of advisers

Firms:

FCA:

  • approves, supervises and enforces against advisers
  • sets clear expectations of ethical behaviour
  • recognises accredited bodies and monitors their effectiveness
  • increases focus on firms’ training and competence arrangements and assessment of adviser quality
  • provides analysis of firms' data
  • receives and filters alerts on individual advisers from various sources
  • alerts accredited bodies as appropriate
  • provides links from the Financial Services Register to the accredited bodies’ websites

​Statements of professional standing

As an adviser, you must hold an annual statement of professional standing (SPS) as evidence that you are meeting adequate standards. The certificate will be issued by an accredited body.

It includes:

  • your name
  • the name and contact details of the accredited body and a named signatory
  • the end date of verification (maximum of 12 months from date of verification)
  • confirmation that your qualification(s) have been verified
  • confirmation that you have signed an annual declaration stating you:
    • have kept your knowledge up to date
    • meet standards of ethical behaviour
  • your individual reference number as it appears on the Financial Services Register, a recommendation that the reader should check you are on the Register, and how to do so

Advisers may want to show the SPS to their clients, especially prospective clients. It is evidence that advisers subscribe to the professional standards. This does not remove the obligation on the firm to assess competence, as set out in our Training and Competence Sourcebook.

We maintain and enforce these standards. Firms are required to submit data to us about their individual advisers.

Accredited bodies will support advisers to achieve and maintain these standards, and they will also inform us of any advisers who do not meet the standards required to obtain an SPS.

Ethical standards

Our Statements of Principle for Approved Persons (APER) apply to all approved persons. We expect investment advisers to be familiar with the statements of principle, which set out the behaviour required of approved persons.

To obtain a Statement of Professional Standing, advisers must make an annual declaration to their accredited body that they have complied with APER.

We encourage advisers to use their accredited body for help and support in understanding and complying with ethical standards.

Continuing professional development

Advisers will need to complete a minimum of 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year for retail investment activities, of which 21 hours should be structured. If you carry out other retail activities, such as mortgage advice or managing funds, you will need to carry out CPD for that activity as well.

Structured CPD is an activity designed to achieve a defined learning outcome. Examples of structured CPD activities include participating in courses, seminars, lectures, conferences, workshops, web-based seminars or e-learning. All CPD should be measurable and capable of being independently verified by an accredited body.

Areas that could be covered in CPD include:

  • technical knowledge and how to apply it
  • skills and expertise
  • changes to products, legislation and regulation
  • addressing any learning gaps

Documenting your learning

You need to ensure you have good quality CPD records. The three areas your documentation should cover are:

  1. your needs - knowledge gaps and your target outcome of the learning
  2. how you will meet your needs - a description of the activity you are going to do or have done, including number of hours
  3. confirm how you met your needs (once carried out) - how the activity has met the target learning outcome, and if tested, the test result

Your firm is responsible for ensuring that you remain competent and will monitor your CPD as part of its responsibilities under our training and competence requirements. You will also need to make an annual declaration to an accredited body that you have met the CPD requirements in the previous 12 months.

Accredited bodies will also carry out checks on at least 10% of advisers to ensure advisers are meeting the minimum requirements. You might be asked to submit your CPD records to the accredited body for review. If an accredited body has concerns about an adviser, it may refer the matter to us.