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FCA Professional Development Guide

FCA - finance activity

FCA Professional Development Guide

Developing your career in financial services can seem like a daunting prospect – particularly when trying to understand Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) qualifications and requirements. Here at FindCourses, we’ve unpicked some of the complexity and put together a handy guide to understanding FCA requirements for professional development in finance.

Get to grips with the process below, or jump straight to a shortcut

FCA Qualifications

Becoming FCA Qualified: An Overview

Before we get started, here are some of the most important things you need to know about getting FCA qualified:

  • The FCA is responsible for authorising and regulating financial firms and individuals in the UK.
  • It sets examination standards and outlines which qualifications meet its requirements, but it does not create or accredit any qualifications. The FCA's handbook provides a table of specific activities (‘controlled functions’) undertaken in finance and appropriate qualifications required for each. 
  • It’s up to individual firms to assess whether an employee performing controlled functions is competent according to the handbook definitions. The FCA does not dictate which qualifications to take.
  • To become an FCA 'approved person', an individual must meet the requirements of the FCA’s 'fit and proper' test (a benchmark, not an exam), among other stipulations.

In short, which examinations or courses you need to take differ depending on which activities you’ll be doing. Read more about the specifics, below.

FCA Qualifications

FCA - accounting

Professional Development Qualifications

To ascertain what you need to develop your career in line with the FCA, the first thing to do is to pinpoint which activities you will be undertaking in your role or the role you aspire to do. Next, find out whether an appropriate qualification is required by the FCA. 

Here is a list of all activities, products and sectors to which FCA training and competence apply:

 • Advising on:

  • securities (other than stakeholder pension schemes, personal pension schemes or broker funds)
  • derivatives
  • retail investment products (other than broker funds)
  • friendly-society tax-exempt policies (other than Holloway sickness policies)
  • long-term care insurance contracts
  • investments in the course of corporate finance business
  • syndicate participation at Lloyd’s

 • Broker fund adviser

 • Pension transfer specialist

 • Advising and dealing on

  • securities (other than stakeholder pension schemes, personal pension schemes or broker funds)
  • derivatives
  • managing investments
  • daily:
    - operating a collective investment scheme or undertaking the activities of a trustee or depositary of a collective investment scheme
    - safeguarding and administering investments or holding client money
    - overseeing administrative functions in: managing investments; effecting or carrying out contracts of life policies insurance; and the operation of stakeholder pension schemes

 • Mortgage and reversion activity for a customer

 • Advising; arranging (bringing about) an execution-only sale 


You can then refer to the FCA's Appropriate Qualifications table to see which qualifications provide the competence needed to perform those activities. Some roles require multiple activities, so you must hold qualifications for each of these. Generally, you must complete a qualification within 30 months of starting the regulated activity.

Remember: It’s up to your firm to assess your competency, tell you if you need additional training and advise on the qualifications they'd like you to take. Find a list of available Finance Courses.

FCA Qualifications

FCA - professional development

Specific Careers and Activities

It’s difficult to give definitive advice about which qualifications are needed for different financial service roles, as the FCA outlines qualifications needed based on activities performed, not by job titles. There are also some stipulations for each activity/qualification required.

However, we’ve tried to give you a starting point with an example of how to break down a role into different activities and identify qualifications needed. Ultimately, you'll need to refer to the FCA’s Appropriate Qualifications table and discuss with your firm to make a decision.

Financial Advisers

According to the FCA, all financial advisers must:

  • have a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS) from an accredited body
  • hold an appropriate qualification 
  • meet the ethical requirements set out in APER, which you must comply with as an approved person
  • meet professional standards and make annual declaration to accredited body
  • complete 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) annually for retail investment activities, of which 21 hours should be structured. CPD must also be carried out if you undertake activities such as mortgage advice or managing funds.

'Adviser' is an umbrella term and encompasses many different activities. Take a look at some of the different adviser roles below to find some common approved qualifications and providers for each.

Please note: the list of adviser activities and qualifications is by no means exhaustive. Refer to the FCA’s Appropriate Qualifications table for all activities and approved qualifications.

FCA Qualifications

Retail Investment Products  Securities (which are not stakeholder pension schemes, personal pension schemes or broker funds) Derivatives

Investment Advice Diploma, Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI)

CIIA qualification, Association of Certified International Investment Analysts (ACIIA)

ACI Diploma, ACI The Financial Markets Association


Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning, Chartered Insurance Institute


Certified International Wealth Manager Diploma (CIWM), Association of International Wealth Management (AIWM)


Certified International Wealth Manager Diploma (CIWM), Association of International Wealth Management (AIWM)

Certified Financial Planner (combined with qualification gap-fill), Institute of Financial Planning

Certificate in Securities Advice and Dealing, Diploma in Financial Planning plus a pass in J12: Securities advice and dealing, Chartered Insurance Institute

Investment Management Certificate (Level 4), CFA Society of UK


Diploma in Investment Planning, Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland


Investment Advice Diploma,
Certificate in Private Client Investment Advice and Management (with qualification gap-fill),
Investment Advice Certificate (with qualification gap-fill),
Member of the Securities Institute (with qualification gap-fill), Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI)


Fellow or Associate, Faculty or Institute of Actuaries

FCA Qualifications

Once you've got to grips with understanding the FCA’s Appropriate Qualifications table, you can work out the competencies needed for your development along with your firm and start your training. If you are not currently employed, you can approach the qualification provider used by the firm you would like to work for to find out more.

FCA Qualifications

Looking for a Shortcut?

If you're looking for fast and accurate information on which qualifications you need, search our list of FCA courses and contact the training providers directly. Just fill out the information request box at the bottom of the page.   

You can also browse finance courses by sectors, including:

FCA Qualifications

If you’re still unsure about things, have a read of our article about becoming FCA qualified or browse our related Forum questions to post your contribution.

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Last updated: 19 Jan 2017

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