How to get CAS (competent advisor status)
CAS stands for ‘competent advisor status’ and is defined by Simply Academy as “deeming the advisor competent to provide sound advice…without requiring supervision” although it is worth noting that CAS can be obtained for any role where advice is given (e.g. equity release, financial advice, mortgage advice etc)
Driving license – Jason Cane looks at CAS status in a similar way to obtaining a driving licence in that being an advisor is made up of two parts; the theory and the practical. In this scenario the theory is the industry qualification whether that be CeMAP, DipFA or CeRER and the practical is writing compliant advice in order to provide advice on your own. However, you cannot independently drive a car with just your theory certificate in the same way you cannot go straight into providing advice with just theoretical knowledge. You need your cases to be looked over by a manager / mentor and learn from this in the same way you learn from a driving instructor before you are able to be autonomous.
Typically, you should have around 2-5 cases in both mortgage advice and protection advice.
Typically, you should have around 2-5 cases in the key 3 areas of Financial Advisor: Investments, pensions and protection however this can vary from company to company as some would rather you specialised in one area.
As mentioned above, if you want to provide professional financial services advice on your own in the UK you need to obtain CAS. Otherwise all of your cases will need to be checked by in house compliance, business quality assessor or senior advisor before it is provided to the client. If you want to be a home-based or self-employed advisor, the likelihood is that you will need CAS status.
The time frame can vary. If you are reading this it is likely you have not gained CAS before, this can take significantly longer than when you have to re-obtain it. In a poll taken on our LinkedIn in April 2021, 83% of people said that it took them between 5 – 8 cases to obtain CAS with a further 17% saying it took them between 9-12 cases.
However, if you are brand new to the industry, for example, if you are coming in as a trainee advisor with no prior industry knowledge, it can be a lot harder to give an estimate of a tangible figure to this.
In order to obtain CAS, you need to have completed and signed off a number of cases that pass regulation checks from your company or organisation.
Grading system – Adrian Watson noted how when he was an advisor his firm had a school like grading system on which advisors work was reviewed and given a grade from A down to D.
A grade = Perfect
B grade = Good work, however, there are a few superficial errors like spelling and grammar that don’t affect the advice, meaning it is not perfect
C grade = Mostly good, additional clarification required but you forgot to ask this key question/ these few questions
D grade = Multiple errors, with compliance and the advice given – unsuitable
CAS is obtained when there is a succession of A & B cases achieved, if an advisor received a C or D grade they would have their run of A and B grade cases reset (if applicable) and the advisor would have to build up another streak of cases at a high level. Similar systems like this are still used by some firms today (Red, amber, green for example).
This is a tricky subject to comment on as there is no single checklist of requirements tested when looking to obtain CAS and there are different factors that contribute toward gaining CAS status. A handful of examples may be:
Grammar, punctuation and spelling – This may sound obvious, but your grammar punctuation and spelling will all contribute to your validity when making advice. You will not receive praise for getting it right but you will be penalised for making errors.
Effectively following compliance –
This is one of the most important factors when looking to obtain CAS, if there are compliance issues, this is a major red flag for companies/ managers. If you have compliance errors this will restart any positive cases you have head doubling the time it takes to obtain CAS.
Your knowledge – The core purpose of your job is to provide advice to clients and as such your knowledge should be at a high level. It is your responsibility to update yourself with the latest industry insights in order to provide your clients with the most relevant advice possible
Analytical skills – You will need to analyse people and their situations, asking questions like; “What is this person’s risk tolerance?” and “How can I most appropriately meet their financial goals?”
More implicit skills that will not help you gain CAS but will help you become a better advisor are:
Sales and promotion – At the end of the day, all advisors are sales-people and aim to build up a sizeable client bank to service. As such your sales and promotional skills will need to be at a high level in order to effectively carry out your duties.
Interpersonal skills – As an advisor, it is your role to effectively communicate with people and as such build relationships with your clients. Therefore it is important that you can demonstrate this in your work, although it may not be directly assessed it will make your role a lot easier.
Tips for getting CAS
Some advice we would give is:
- Know the company’s processes – As mentioned these can differ in small ways from company to company so it is really important that you know the finer details when looking to obtain CAS. Ask for any materials that could help or a list of standards that your company have that may not be obvious at first glance
- Create your own checklist – Think in the shoes of the person that will be reviewing this; What things will they pick up on? Spelling, grammar punctuation, asking the right questions and staying compliant are all crucial when pushing for competent advisor status
- Triple check – Before sending cases to be checked read it and read it again. A good tip may be to take time away from your writing to then read it over with a fresh pair of eyes
To conclude, CAS is a vital aspect of becoming an autonomous advisor and a vital stepping stone in a career of a Financial Advisor and it is really important for your career that you obtain it due to the opportunities it can open up.
Information used to inform this blog