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In good time

How do you clock up your 50 hours of continuing professional development


each year? Is attending conferences an enjoyable way to make up the hours?


Or is sitting back and reading the trade press a good way of keeping up to


date with the industry?


CPD requirements are set to change later this year with the introduction


of new rules. Instead of simply meeting the requirement for 50 hours&#39 study


each year, IFAs will have to start thinking for themselves, according to


FSA head of industry training David Jackman.


He says: “It really makes no sense to simply collect 50 hours of CPD each


year just to keep us happy. I would rather IFAs did 20 worthwhile hours


rather than 50 hours of dubious value.”


This stance is supported by Aifa director of policy and technical services


Fay Goddard, who says: “I totally support the new FSA rules concerning CPD.


IFAs should want to seek to improve their professional knowledge in the


same way as doctors and lawyers need to be up to date. IFAs need to look


for relevant ways to account for CPD.”


The FSA warns that CPD has to be useful. IFAs must adopt a mature approach


instead of clocking up useless points from conferences and events. IFAs now


need to justify their CPD hours rather than simply tick a box to say they


have completed 50 hours.


FSA spokeswoman Sarah Modlock says: “Some conferences offering CPD points


are created by organisers trying to make a fast buck. IFAs need to be


careful as some conferences are even awarding points for times when the


participants are asleep in their hotel rooms.”


However, networks and training organisations still believe that days away


from the office can provide resourceful ways for IFAs to build up their CPD


points and do some networking into the bargain.


IFA Network sales and marketing director Nick Kelly says: “We hold


quarterly training days which IFAs can use as part of their CPD. They are


also a good opportunity for IFAs to interact and they can return to these


events and see the same faces.”


Sofa chairman Peter Williams says various methods can be used to obtain


CPD hours, including computer-based training and attending Sofa meetings.


So, with the new rules on the horizon, how can IFAs fulfil their CPD


requirements to their best advantage?


Williams says: “The key to CPD activities is that activities counting


towards it must be relevant and necessary. IFAs need to be up to date with


the marketplace in order to be considered professionals.”


Towry Law Fraser Smith regional manager Patrick Murphy says: “I take exams


to fur ther my qualifications and studying can build up a lot of CPD


points. Entering for fin ancial awards, such as the Sofa awards, can also


carry points.”


Attending conferences is a popular way for IFAs to build up CPD points.


Holden Meehan director Amanda Davidson says: “I attend external


conferences, such as Sofa conferences and PIMS, as well as internal


training. Life companies offer training for IFAs which can be used for CPD


purposes. There is usually a spin on a new product but they do also offer a


lot of generic information.”


Murphy says: “Sofa conferences and seminars can improve professional


knowledge as they involve looking at case studies and improving industry


knowledge.”


But how should IFAs choose the conferences they attend and be sure they


count towards CPD?


Williams says IFAs need to be careful about which conferences they sign up


for. “IFAs have to see how relevant training days are for them. For


example, a pension specialist could argue that a training day on


critical-illness cover is relevant to their CPD as it is an issue for their


clients but, generally, they need to make sure it is very relevant before


they can claim CPD,” he says.


Modlock says IFAs have to demonstrate how these conferences have developed


their professional knowledge for the reg ulator to agree that they qualify


as CPD. She says: “When the FSA visits IFAs to check CPD records, seeing


400 points awarded for a conference means very little to us.


“IFAs need to prove they attended a relevant conference appropriate to


their needs.”


Settling down to read the trade press can also count as CPD. IFAs say it


is a good way of keep ing up to date with industry news and can help


improve professional knowledge.


The Onions Group principal Penny O&#39Nions says: “Clearly, reading the trade


press is a good way to maintain knowledge of products and a brief way to


get the industry gossip. But you have to prove you have read it. For


example, I keep the cuttings and refer to news in the articles I write and


I record a general number of hours I spend reading each week.”


But Williams argues: “Reading the trade press is a questionable use of CPD


time. It may take a couple of hours to read a paper in depth but only 20


minutes of that reading time may improve an IFA&#39s knowledge and take their


professional development forward. You cannot just read any article in the


trade press and claim the time spent as CPD.”


Modlock says: “Reading the trade press is unstructured time and you need


to draw your own conclusions from the articles. If you are a pension


specialist and you spend CPD time reading about mortgages, this does not go


far to improving your specialist knowledge.”


The way to decide how to spend your CPD hours and come up to scratch on


regulatory visits is to examine your CPD as if you were the regulator, says


O&#39Nions.


“Providing your CPD is relevant to your work and you choose sensible


activities, the regulator should find it acceptable. Try to look at


yourself as the regulator would look at you when deciding what will count,”


she says.


Modlock says: “People need to judge what is appropriate CPD for


themselves. We are not publishing official guidelines as individuals need


to work out what is right for them. But as long as IFAs are seen to be


using their CPD as a way forward or prove they are making moves towards


this, it will be acceptable.”

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