Getting the most out of CPD – and making it personal

Hegarty, Tom_700x450

Continuous professional development should be viewed as something more than just a box-ticking exercise undertaken to renew a statement of professional standing. It can be used to genuinely benefit development, both professionally and personally. The key to really unlocking the value of CPD is to make it personal. What are your development needs? What are the needs of your business?

When undertaken properly, development is a machine of many cogs, and one that is vitally important but all too often neglected is the personal development plan. The major cause of this reticence is a lack of understanding about what form this plan should take and what should be included. We know it needs to meet the criteria of CPD given by the regulator (set out in full below) but, just as importantly, it needs to be personal and relevant to your needs.

So, where should you start? I would recommend you go back to basics and run an analysis of where your development needs sit. Segment your analysis into broad sections: technical knowledge, conduct and ethics, business development, practice management and personal development.

Although everyone will have emphasis in certain areas over others, a comprehensive CPD framework should be reasonably balanced across the whole spectrum, with areas of focus falling into each of those headers. Once you have ranked these areas of interest in priority order, you will have the foundations of your personal development plan.

Bear in mind there are a number of criteria produced by the FCA a learning activity needs to fulfil in order to qualify as CPD. It should:

  • Be relevant to the retail investment adviser’s current role and any anticipated changes to that role
  • Maintain the retail investment adviser’s knowledge by reference to current qualification standards relevant to the retail investment adviser’s role
  • Contribute to the retail investment adviser’s professional skill and knowledge
  • Address any identified gaps in the retail investment adviser’s technical knowledge
  • Have written learning objectives based on learning needs and a documented learning outcome
  • Be measurable and capable of being independently verified by an accredited body
  • The FCA also specifies that structured CPD must take 30 minutes or more to complete.

With this criteria as a base, you can now begin to look at the range of CPD opportunities available, balancing them against the prioritised list of subject areas you have already created. It goes without saying your personal development plan is a living document and will continue to evolve throughout the year. However, building a structure of the areas you are going to cover and where/how you are going to access that learning activity will be valuable, even if you do not stick to it doggedly.

I would suggest you consider the below points for any CPD activity you undertake:

  • Why did you select this activity?
  • Does it fit in with your personal development plan? How is it linked to your pre-selected learning objectives?
  • How does it contribute to your knowledge and skill set?
  • In what way can you put this theoretical learning into practical use in your firm?

If you are unable to answer any of the questions above, it is likely the activity you are looking at is not relevant to your ongoing development in a meaningful way.

Thinking about and compiling your personal development plan is not a quick and easy exercise, and some advisers will still believe it is too big an effort to prove worthwhile.

But 35 hours of CPD are going to need to be taken and documented anyway – would it not make sense to spend a little more time preparing properly to end up with a plan that meets your needs and goals?

The real key to this is producing and following a plan that is tailored entirely to meet your individual needs. There is no shortage of opportunities to gain CPD – particularly structured CPD – out there in the market.

You should use the opportunities available to you to help develop your skills, your knowledge,  your business and, ultimately, the service and standards you offer to your clients.

Tom Hegarty is managing director of the New Model Business Academy