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Mind the gap

It takes a lot to be an IFA. Even after qualifying, there is regulatory

pressure to demonstrate professional competence continuously.

FSA head of industry training David Jackman, says: “One exam taken at the

outset of a career does not guarantee competence through a person&#39s working

life, hence, CPD needs to be prominent.”

How does an IFA keep up with new products and their uses, new legislation,

complete never-ending paperwork, update and memorise client records, be

ever adept at change but also comfortable and confident among this constant

bombardment of new information and demand for learning?

There can be no doubt that the market of tomorrow offers huge

opportunities to those who invest in themselves and their businesses,

establishing themselves as effective, profitable players.

Business has never been better. In fact, it is going from strength to

strength. The latest figures from IFA Promotion (May 2000), which combine

statistics from a variety of sources, show sales of life and pension

products, Peps, Oeics and unit trusts through IFAs are consistently higher

than through any other sales channel. Sales through IFAs were more than

double those recorded in 1994.

At present, there are more people wanting quality independent financial

advice than there are people to supply it.

Pick up any of the trade papers and look at the number of firms looking

for qualified and experienced IFAs to service existing client banks as

proof of this.

But are you facing a training dilemma?

It is well recognised that the financial services marketplace is moving

forward atan incredible pace, drivenby technological change,Government

legislation and new products.

This has inevitably led toa plethora of training oppor-tunities. But with

so many demands on an IFA&#39s time, which should you choose?

The FSA has already made noises that it wants to drop the guidance that

IFAs should carry out a minimum of 50 hours continuing professional

development a year.

Proposals have been published for CPD to be taken on its merits, rather

than the need to clock up the req-uired hours.

Jackman says: “I want to challenge the industry. Do you need to be told

exactly what to do and for how many hours? Or can you act responsibly and

professionally by deciding for yourselves?”

Clearly, the need to have highly qualified, well trained advisers is more

important than ever before.

It is widely mooted thatthe Advanced Financial Planning Certificate will

shortly be established as the benchmark qualification.

Allied to this, clients&#39 needs are changing, along with their awareness

and understanding of financial products. Apart from traditional sources,

clients can now research and buy products via the internet or at their

local supermarket.

How should you assess your business skills?

To address these training issues and place the emphasis on the outcome of

a programme, such as growing your own business successfully, expanding your

personal potential and devel- oping the capabilities of your staff, we have

developed a business skills profile.

It is a simple concept, introduced to help our network members define

areas of personal and business development requirements but you can adapt

the idea for your own purposes.

It involves putting together a checklist of market areas and business

topics, such as business planning and making effective client

presentations, examination needs, and then asking yourself the relevant

combination of the four questions shown in the box above.

Among the market areas included on the DBS checklist is the following.


State provision and developing personal pension opportunities;

employer-sponsored opportunities and retirement opportunities;

comprehensive mortgage advice is included together with investment planning

and protection, both individual protection and corporate and estate


This model is a guide to help IFAs get the most out of their training plans.

Once knowledge and skills gaps are identified, a training plan to deliver

results for your business can be developed.

If we plan for what we are aiming to achieve, then we can review each

training opportunity objectively against needs or, in the words of the

regulator, on merit.

The issues of training are crucial as we continuously strive to raise

professional standards and build our profile as a sector worthy of

professional recognition and respect.

Q1: Is this a market that I am currently involved in?

Q2: Is this a market area I would like to develop into during the next 12


Q3: Do I consider that my knowledge and skills could be enhanced?

Q4: Do I need support in developing my marketing skills in this area?


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