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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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