The purpose of the professional development contract
The process of developing graduate trainees through the main stages of their programme has to be carefully planned and managed. A manager needs to take responsibility for the programme and keep the progress of the trainee under review.
The document outlining the whole process for the graduate traineeship is the Professional Development Contract (PDC). This sets out the graduate trainee's and employer's undertakings. The development programme is split into two stages, the first when the trainee cannot give any advice to clients and the second when the trainee can give advice under close supervision.
When the employer and the graduate trainee have agreed on the content of the contract, they will register the PDC with the Chartered Insurance Institute. It is their public declaration of intent that the programme should be a success. It also allows the CII to track the progress of the Pathways to Professionalism initiative. Full instructions on how to do this are provided online to participants in the programme.
Key stages of graduate trainee development
Graduate trainees have to pass through two key stages of development before they can become fully fledged, competent financial advisers. After recruitment, these stages are:
a: Stage 1 training period – no advice
This is the first stage, before passing the FP1 examination, during which the trainee can give no advice to clients. The trainee can gain knowledge and experience by acting as an administrator and paraplanner for one or more financial advisers.
b: Stage 2 training period – supervised advice
This is the second stage, before passing the FP2 and FP3 examinations, in which the trainee can provide advice but only under close supervision. The trainee can take on more advanced administration and paraplanner work and start to give supervised advice.
c: Assessed as competent
Once the trainee has been assessed as competent and has passed all three FPC papers or their equivalent, they attain full financial adviser status. Passing the exams is necessary to achieve competence but it is not enough by itself – either for the purposes of the FSA training and competence rules or to act as a financially viable adviser.
Passing the FPC is just the start. A graduate trainee's aim should be considerably higher. After they are assessed as competent financial advisers, trainees will go on and take the AFPC examinations. They will also need to keep up to date with the tax, legal, product, investment market and other changes that will affect them and their clients. They may also want to consider taking higher or more specialist qualifications and/or register for work-based learning that can lead towards university qualifications.
The stages of attaining competence
Trainee gives no advice
Generic knowledge – FP1
Analysis skills – basic
Trainee gives supervised advice
Generic knowledge -FP2 and FP3
Analysis skills – higher
Assessed competent to give financial advice
Maintaining competence – using the CII financial
Enhancing competence – passing AFPC exams
Managing the graduate trainee programme
The process of managing the development of the graduate trainee should have an element of formality or it could drift and end in failure. Formal planning of this kind is not always the natural province of financial advisory businesses, so it is important to make a determined commitment and to plan and record the process in writing. In any case, the FSA requires proper record-keeping of training and competence activities.
The basic principle behind most training is a simple cycle. Assess how the trainee measures up to the required standard; identify gaps or where they need to improve; design a training programme to achieve the improvement; carry out the training programme; assess the trainee's performance.
The recommended overall development process for the graduate trainee is as follows:
Step 1: Write a job description listing the functions that the trainee will be expected to perform.
Sample job description
Job title: Graduate trainee financial adviser
Reports to: Line manager
Location: Office based in central London
Purpose of the role: To undertake the role of administrator and paraplanner while developing the competences of a financial adviser Key tasks: To support three financial advisers with:
Obtaining quotations, illustrations and product information using internal systems and software, provider intranets and the internet Liaising with product providers
Producing draft reports and suitability letters
Administering client files
Documenting client meetings
Providing support for client meetings including schedules, valuations, quotations and other information/ documentation Updating and using the back-office systems
Commitment to a Professional Development Contract consisting of private study for examinations and the development of practical competences to become a financial adviser Qualifications and competences: Graduate or equivalent
For competences – see recruitment person specification
Step 2: Using the job description, set the benchmark for the knowledge, skills and attitude competences that are required for each stage. The manager's resource file which forms an integral part of Pathways sets out two draft benchmark competences profiles for stage one and stage two. They cover:
– Moving from stage one pre-advice training to stage two supervised advice.
– Moving from stage two supervised advice training to assessment as competent adviser status.
They are also summarised in the graduate trainee's Professional Development Contract.
Step 3: Assess the trainee against the relevant benchmark competences' profile. Try to identify the shortfalls and measure them on an objective scale.
Step 4: Decide how best to help the trainee to make up the shortfalls. This could involve planning a range of in-house and out-of-house training and development activities.
Set specific and measurable achievement objectives.
Step 5: The graduate trainee carries out the agreed tasks, training programme or other activity.
Step 6: Assess the trainee's achievements against the benchmark competences' profile and evaluate the training and development process to see if it could be improved.
The cycle should then start again. This process can be used for complete stages, such as the whole of the stage one training period, but it is also helpful for shorter training projects, such as mastering the firm's anti-money laundering procedures.