How much are QCF Level 4 investment exams really costing firms to support?



Many new entrants to investment management and advisory firms are expected to complete their baseline regulatory QCF Level 4 qualifications with only modest support from their employers. Quite often, just the costs of a course book and exam entry fee are covered. The rationale for this makes some sense in that many new entrants have only recently graduated from university and are used to studying on their own at or above the level being tested.

However, there can be problems with such an approach. Bright and enthusiastic new members of staff can quickly feel demotivated and isolated if they don’t pass their introductory exams first time. A number of firms lose some otherwise very able employees early on if they feel they are not being given enough support to help them progress.

Organisations also argue that if staff are not passing these exams first time, they perhaps lack the right qualities to be employed long-term. I find this argument tenuous especially when you bear in mind the rigorous screening that is carried out under a firm’s graduate trainee employment process.

Exam failures are not really “one offs” at this level either. For example, the most recent pass rates for the CISI’s Investment Advice Diploma exams are:

UK Regulation and Professional Integrity – 57%
Investment Risk and Taxation – 70%
Derivatives – 62%
Securities – 62%
Private Client Advice – 67%
(Source: CISI December 2015)

The figures show that in all exams bar one, at least 1/3rd of candidates fail. The papers are challenging technically and require good exam technique to pass – as they should do. Just because the majority of them are multiple choice exams, doesn’t make them easy. My question would be, if 1/3rd of candidates are failing, what does that add up to in terms of retake fees, updated study books, time out of the office, travel costs etc?

So what is the best approach for an employer?

Our advice would not be to adopt a one size fits all approach to qualification support. It should take only a short time to identify what a candidate’s potentially most successful approach to study would be based on his or her aptitude and working environment. Once this is established, a menu of effective help options can be offered. Online support can suit some who work better on their own and have the discipline to maintain a schedule of quality study. Others may find classroom or one to one assistance more in tune with the way they learn best. Some may need a blended learning approach.

Deciding upon the best combination of options for a candidate will provide the highest chance of all staff passing first time. The right support at the outset, will ultimately save costs for firms as their staff develop and quickly become more efficient.

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