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' 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
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
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
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'Nions 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's 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
“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,”
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.”