Where is the value in CPD?

Continuing professional development is often seen as a necessary evil that people in financial services must put up with. It wastes valuable time that could be better spent doing something else and causes a headache when it comes to filling out your yearly log.

But is that fair? Should we all groan when CPD logs have to be filled out or should we view it as a necessity that genuinely matters and does not have to be a headache?

In this article, I will look at what CPD is, its purpose, the problems regarding its perceived value and what one firm is doing to ensure it is achieved with minimal fuss.

Regardless of which professional body you ask, it all boils down to the same thing: CPD is essential to ensure that all financial services professionals keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date. There is a minimum requirement of 35 hours of CPD activity in a 12-month period.

Of those hours, 21 must be structured, which involves a formal activity with a specific learning outcome that meets a person’s development needs. It must be measurable and relevant to their role, and last at least 30 minutes. Examples include conferences, seminars and studying for exams.

Unstructured CPD can make up the remaining hours and while it must also be relevant to a person’s role, it does not have to be designed around their development needs. A popular example is reading articles in trade publications.

This is where the perception of the value of CPD becomes an issue. Some “CPD accredited” activities are laughed at and considered an easy few hours for the log. For example, product providers holding events masquerading as educational when in reality it is more about selling a product or seminars run by companies that focus on technical knowledge but only from an angle that suits them. Meanwhile, you can always conjure up some reading time over a year to get to the magical 35 hours.

However, some firms do take CPD extremely seriously and offer a well thought-out and structured programme for their staff. I was recently looking at how a network structured CPD for its members and was struck by how seriously it was being taken and how well thought-through the entire programme was. On offer are specific events across all areas, delivering structured CPD for at least the required 35 hours. Even better, these events are offered on multiple occasions, making it easy for their members to schedule them in and achieve their yearly requirement with little fuss. What is most striking, though, is that these events are not laid on as specific CPD tick-boxing exercises but as valuable sessions. Now there is a firm that takes CPD seriously. It certainly results in staff being kept up-to-date and relevant.

I have no doubt that CPD is an important element of financial services. Not only should it show that an individual is up to date but, perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates to the consumer that financial services professionals can be trusted to keep their knowledge current in order to provide the best service.

Perhaps the relevant professional and accreditation bodies should look at the issues surrounding the perception of CPD and tighten up requirements in order to give its role the respect and reputation it deserves. Couple that with firms viewing CPD as an essential part of business and giving it priority, and the outcome can only be that of a well-rounded and well-respected profession.

Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training