The managing director of Worcester-based-Temple Bar has said that the FSA's retail distribution review threatens to jeopardise The Equality Bill, which comes into force in 2012 and makes ageism unlawful in the provision of products and services, as it may disadvantage older IFAs.

He said that the QCF level four requirement threatens the livelihood of around 30 per cent of IFAs resulting in a negative and harmful consequences not only for those advisers but also to their soon to be "orphaned" clients.

Mr Mansell said that the RDR's requirement to achieve the level four qualification by the deadline of December 2012, could be construed as "indirect discrimination" under the Equality Bill.

The letter to Mr Sants, chief executive of FSA, said: "Having a policy or practice such as the RDR level four requirement, together with a refusal to allow grandfathering that places financial advisers of a certain age group at a disadvantage compared with other people, could be discriminatory.

"Recent medical studies reveal that mental faculties start to decline in later life. Therefore to apply a degree level four learning requirement to an industry whose average age is 54 and to not permit grandfathering could contravene age discrimination laws."

Mr Mansell sited similar examples where such discrimination could be found, such as firms introducing a fitness test which all employees are required to pass.

He added: "This could be indirect discrimination if fewer older employees are likely to be able to pass the test. Both direct and indirect discrimination are unlawful unless the discrimination can be justified."

This comes as research by James Hay Wrap predicted that the average age of IFAs is estimated at 54.

IFAs are not the only ones having to study for exams at a later stage in life and finding it harder to learn. Giles Hargreave, manager of the top performing £320.5m Marlborough Special Situations fund, said that he too was preparing to sit the private client investment management exam required as part of his gap-filling in advance of the RDR.

Despite nearly 40 years of experience in the fund management sector, Mr Hargreave, whose fund carries a five-star rating from Morningstar, said he empathised with IFAs who, in their later years, have suddenly found themselves face-to-face with a written exam.

He said: "Learning so much and getting ready for an exam is not easy when you reach a certain age in life. But I want to carry on working and therefore I have to do it."

Article from FT Adviser