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4 things you didn’t know about becoming FCA qualified

Everything you need to know about becoming FCA qualified

Since the launch of, one of the most popular questions that we have regularly received relates to how you should go about training for a number of different roles in the financial services sector. Now largely the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), it seems that the information available on this topic has always been both sparse and difficult to piece together. As a result, many professionals continue to be unsure about the exact processes and requirements that govern the whole process of becoming qualified for their roles, particularly when it comes to so-called "controlled functions".

It is in response to this apparent knowledge gap that we have compiled this list of the top 4 things that you should (and probably didn’t) know about becoming FCA qualified.

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1. It is up to your firm to assess your level of competency.

The FCA has a lot of responsibilities, which include setting examination standards and outlining which qualifications meet their requirements. Assessing your level of competency is not one of them. While they specify that those performing controlled functions should be competent according to the definition included in their Training and Competence (TC) sourcebook, they are not responsible for ascertaining that this is, in fact, the case. This task is left up to individual firms, so only your employer can tell you whether you have the skills and qualifications necessary to perform the tasks that are expected of you.

Any employer who tells you differently is either unaware of the firm’s responsibilities or not taking them seriously.

2. The FCA does not create or accredit any qualifications.

As mentioned above, the FCA has a handbook that outlines their commitments & requirements in terms of staff competence. Their definition of competence is quite simple: having the "skills, knowledge and expertise needed to discharge the responsibilities of their role". When it comes to controlled functions, this has been translated into a number of clearly defined examination standards for each related activity. The FCA owns these standards and oversees their production as well as any changes that are requested and carried out in response to industry demands.

Now, this is where the matter gets a bit tricky.

The FCA ensures that these standards are enforced by requesting that individuals carrying out certain activities hold "appropriate qualifications", i.e. qualifications that abide by the exam standards that have been set out. What this means is that the FCA provides a list of qualifications that meet their requirements for those performing various sets of activities for retail customers. At the same time, they do not create, accredit or deliver any of these qualifications.

In other words, the FCA approves the qualifications, but is not a qualifications provider. Consequently, the qualifications are actually developed and accredited by a number of sector-specific organisations, including the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), as well as large awarding bodies such as Pearson Edexcel and City & Guilds.

3. There is no such thing as a CF30 qualification.

If you’ve read this far you’ll be clear on the fact that the FCA doesn’t provide any qualifications directly. They simply compile a list of appropriate qualifications that are inserted in a table specifying which activities they are suitable for.

Bearing the above in mind, is there such a thing as a CF30 qualification for the customer function? No there is not.

This is because your day-to-day activities as a CF30 may vary quite significantly between firms and, though most CF30 positions will require carrying out an activity that has a qualification requirement, this is not always the case. For this reason, CF30s (and their firms) need to refer to the FCA’s table of appropriate qualifications to see a) if they perform any of the specified activities and b) which qualifications are appropriate for those activities. If you are not currently employed, and thus don’t really know what your role will involve, you need to think carefully about the kind of firm that you would like to work for and then preferably approach the qualification provider they use to find out more.

TIP: Don't use the search terms FCA or CF30.
Click here for a list of approved qualifications & providers.

4. The FCA will never give you advice about which qualification or provider to choose. Ever.

If you’re thinking of going to the FCA for advice regarding which qualification would be most useful or beneficial for your particular professional role, think again.

The FCA is incredibly careful about being impartial, as well as emphasising the responsibility of individual firms when it comes to assessing their advisers’ skills and making appropriate recommendations for further training. This means that the FCA will never tell you which qualification you should take, much like they don’t express judgement on current skill levels (see point 1) or give advice on gap-fill requirements or job opportunities. For this, again, it is your employer that should be your main point of reference, alongside relevant professional bodies.

Despite appearances, there is actually a lot of choice out there and qualifying is not as hard as it may seem. In fact, if you have a qualification from any professional body operating in the financial sector, you are likely to be most of the way there already!

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Last updated: 02 Dec 2019

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