The Equity Release Council’s ‘Competency Framework’ summary

Report by Simon Chalk, SOLLA Advisory Board Member

I attended a recent webinar, hosted by the Equity Release Council, to learn more about their recently introduced ‘Competency Framework.’

Here is my promised summary for SOLLA members who actively advise on Equity Release and later-life lending, or are interested in doing so.

Webinar Panel

  • Les Pick - Head of Sales, Home Finance, Canada Life (chair) 
  • Andrew Kerry, Financial Solutions Manager, StepChange
  • Donna Bathgate, Chief Operating Officer, Equity Release Council
  • James Sudworth, Adviser, The Equity Release Experts
  • Jon Dunckley, Managing Director, Fortica Ltd

The panel (who had all been involved in the project), explored the purpose of the framework, how to use it, and how it could add value to an adviser and their firm. They discussed how the framework could support existing training and competency frameworks, as well as how it can be used to benchmark knowledge and skills.

The audience wasn’t engaged in debate, nor was the customary Q&A facilitated, so I draw from my experience as a viewer:

What’s it all about?

There is an acceptance (not before time) within the Equity Release sector, that attaining a Level 3 qualification and CAS ‘Competent Adviser Status’ is not the end result, but just the beginning.

The Framework has three ‘pathways’ of;

  1. New to the sector
  2. Advising under supervision
  3. Competent adviser status

It is there to support an adviser through the whole journey, from taking their first steps, acquiring knowledge and experience along the way, eventually ending up at the fully immersed stripes on the shoulder adviser stage.

Even then that is not the end, with the Framework providing a lifelong tool for identifying gap-fill and renewed learning opportunities, in a world of ever-changing rules, products and what is widely perceived as constituting ‘best practice’.

The Competency Framework can help trainers and advisers, from small to large firms, DA or networks, by providing “everything, all in one place”, forming part of an assessment as to where an adviser’s competency level sits.

What does it involve?

The Framework takes a modular format, with 6 booklets comprising of;

‘Know your…:

  • Industry
  • Market
  • Client
  • Soft Skills
  • Products
  • Process

The panel stressed that the Competency Framework was not mandatory, nor prescriptive, but a tool to be utilised; something to help focus on relevant CPD and training needs. It is not a test, an exam, nor a qualification to be attained.

Why has the Equity Release Council created this?

In a Rumsfeldian moment, one panel member remarked that “we don’t know what we don’t know”, hence the Framework was created to enable the adviser or trainer to spot knowledge-gaps, thus facilitating the shift from being “unconsciously incompetent” to “consciously incompetent.

Once the adviser is aware of what they don’t know, they can set about learning with gusto, and I imagine aspire to become ‘consciously competent’, yet still return to the Framework regularly to brush-up on any less frequented areas.

Where does my SOLLA Accreditation fit in?

Two of the modules - ‘Know you client’ and ‘Know your soft skills’ will be bread and butter to SOLLA accredited advisers. Indeed, I am surprised that the Competency Framework makes so little acknowledgement of SOLLA’s status as the vanguard in these areas. If you don’t already advise on Equity Release, the other 4 modules will offer something new, in providing a helpful reference point. They won’t tell you how to be a better adviser, but they will send you off in the direction to go and find out.

Where does the SOLLA Later Life Lending Advice Standard (LLLAS) fit in? 

SOLLA’s LLLAS is consumer-facing, as a way of guiding people to a trusted and qualified person for appropriate advice on Equity Release and other forms of later-life lending.  

In this respect it is entirely different from the Competency Framework, but collectively they provide a great opportunity for Equity Release advisers to gain knowledge, that can be evidenced to the consumer. 

LLLAS is all about the advice, which logically you cannot impart without first of all having a good understanding of your industry, market, products, processes, and most critically; clients. LLLAS is aimed at already qualified Equity Release and later-life lending advisers, so undertaking it would fulfil much of the 3rd pathway of ‘Competent adviser status’ within the Competency Framework.

I’m less surprised at the absence of acknowledging SOLLA’s work in this space, as the Framework was launched so soon after LLLAS, they probably never thought to consult with us.

Where can I find out more about the Competency Framework?

SOLLA members may access the 6 modules of The Competency Framework (generously sponsored by Canada Life) here: www.canadalife.co.uk/home-finance/competency-framework/

In Summary

The Competency Framework is to be welcomed, but should be viewed for what it is; a long list of areas that make up the role of a competent adviser. It does not attempt to educate or train. Instead, it tells you where to go to find out what you ought to know. The experienced adviser will gain less than the newly qualified one, but could still pick out one or two useful bits. It is rather light on the matter of the care system, social services, and how this interacts with Equity Release.  

I can see an individual’s T&C / CPD hanging off the framework and most definitely SOLLA’s LLLAS satisfies a large part of this.

Simon Chalk
SOLLA Advisory Board Member
25/03/2021