The Association of Registered Investment Advisers (ARIA) has written to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) asking it to extend the deadline for advisers looking to renew their certification by a year. As things stand, advisers have to clear exams for renewal.
According to the investment adviser (IA) guidelines issued in July, such persons should have at all times a certification on financial planning or fund or asset or portfolio management or investment advisory services from the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) or any other institution, including the Financial Planning Standards Board of India (FPSB).
Sebi said fresh certification should be obtained before the expiry of the existing one to ensure continuity in compliance. It, however, has disallowed advisers using continuing professional education (CPE) from obtaining fresh certification.
Many RIAs are now gearing up to give NISM’s Series XA and XB exams to renew their certification. Several are struggling to get the desired dates or examination centres to write the exams.
“Advisers have no option but to clear NISM’s XA and XB exams. The problem is that dates for nearby examination centres are not readily available, and advisers may have to travel to far-flung locations, which is inadvisable in a time like this. So, you may suddenly find a number of financial advisers who have not been able to get a fresh certification and, therefore, technically, are not qualified to give financial advice. We have, therefore, asked Sebi to grant us an additional year to renew our certifications,” said Lovaii Navlakhi, founder, International Money Matters, a Sebi registered advisory firm, and board member of ARIA.
According to experts, renewal through CPE points is a globally accepted norm. FPSB, which issues the certified financial planning (CFP) certification, for instance, allows members to renew membership each year if they earn 15 CPE points during the year. This requirement becomes due immediately from the first year of certification and needs to be completed at least one month before the renewal date. The points can be obtained by attending webinars, conferences, and writing for professional journals.
However, advisers cannot use these CPE points to renew their certification. Also, FPSB does not have a provision for candidates who have already been certified to take exams again.
“Making advisers write the exams all over again is not feasible. This will especially inconvenience senior professionals who may have acquired a professional certification several years ago. Not clearing the exam is a risk that some advisers will face — not due to incompetence, but due to the fact that they oversee the work and may not get into the nitty-gritty of calculations,” said Suresh Sadagopan, a financial planner and ARIA board member. Sebi has also mandated other requirements — such as cap on fees, number of clients, net worth criteria — that could make life difficult for individual advisers.