We have seen a huge change in the qualifications landscape over the years. Not only have the exams themselves changed, so too has the provision of learning and development throughout financial services.
When I sat my FPC exams back in the old days, I remember looking around for assistance so that I did not just have to rely on the study text. Alas, I found next to none available.
The amount of at-work assistance candidates received also varied greatly from employer to employer. Some put on courses to help candidates through, others paid for them to attend courses offered elsewhere and then there were those who just left you to get on with it. I was firmly put in the latter camp.
As the economy hit hard times, fewer and fewer employers were willing and/or able to help candidates by paying for additional courses or resources to help them through their exams. Arguably that was a false economy. Surely being qualified has to be a top priority?
Skip to the present day, though, and with Level 4 now the requirement for advisers, and Level 6 being strived for by many, it is rare to find someone who simply purchases the relevant study text, sits the exam and passes first time without much strain.
Thankfully, the last few years has seen employers become more active in helping candidates through exams but the provision is still scattered.
Some see helping employees in this respect as a worthwhile investment but some still see it as a cost the candidate should pay for themselves. There are arguments on both sides.
With the tougher qualification requirements and increasing interest in becoming certified or chartered, we have also seen a rise in enquiries regarding continuing professional development.
Based on conversations with other learning and development providers, CPD is being taken much more seriously now the qualifications bar is higher. There is still a long way to go with CPD but it is certainly now seen less as a tick box exercise and more as a genuine need to keep knowledge up-to-date. This can only be a good thing for individuals, for financial services in general and for the end consumer.
But with these changes comes the need for higher quality, more thorough and professional learning and development provision. I would argue that learning and development is a profession in its own right, and is no longer yet another activity farmed out to just any unsuspecting individual to
Gone are the days when a few low quality powerpoint slides could be thrown together and called training, thank goodness. The skills involved in learning and development are being taken more seriously and are now more recognised. The result is that financial services now has some excellent trainers, coaches, authors and developers working in the field.
Those of us in the financial services learning and development space want to help others achieve their potential by providing access to opportunities via qualifications, CPD and elsewhere. I see more discussion among advisers on social media about training, coaching and the use of resources to assist with qualifications and CPD. It is great to see the conversations being had, the available assistance being discussed and advisers becoming more vocal about their learning and development needs.
Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training