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Personal effects

The debate around the appropriateness of qualifications and the need for ongoing development has never been so actively debated. From the Chartered Insurance Institute’s calls to end the “alphabet soup” of qualifications to the latest proposals put forward by the FSA in its feedback statement on retail distribution review.

In addition to obtaining professional qualifications for the appropriate level of technical knowledge in order to provide suitable advice to clients, it is just as important to ensure that market, legislation and product knowledge remains current.

With the ever-increasing complexity and variety of the potential solutions which could be suitable for a client, advisers could be leaving themselves open to criticism that the advice given did not consider all of the options available.

The key to ensuring that the ongoing development undertaken by advisers is relevant and adds value to the business is to employ techniques which are common in many parts of the financial services industry but not always used within IFA businesses – that is, personal development plans.

Everyone working within the business should have agreed goals and objectives along with key performance indicators. This ensures that the activity undertaken by the adviser is both relevant to their role and the wider business. Regular review meetings will also help to identify if there are any issues which may otherwise go undetected.

Attending industry and product provider events also provides advisers with an opportunity to discuss and understand issues faced by others and share experiences.

For business owners, one eye should also be focused on developing their business skills. The more successful businesses of the future will be the ones who are able to present themselves to clients as professional firms with clearly defined service offerings, which reflect a client’s needs and are profitable to the business.

Ongoing development should not be confined to the intermediary sector. It is only right that product providers ensure that their employees are appropriately trained, both through external professional qualifications and internal courses all set against a competency-type framework.

Where a consultant is calling on an IFA businesses to discuss technical and product issues, then it is vitally important that the individual is not just qualified to the same qualification standard, but that their knowledge is adequately up to date and reflects current legislation.

Whatever the level of attention has been applied to this area by the FSA, one thing is certain – if a professional standards board is established, as has been prop- osed, then there will be a much greater focus on not just having the right level of qualification but on what is being done to ensure that knowledge is continually refreshed and relevant.

Mark Wilson is consultant at Axa Winterthur Wealth Management Professional Edge

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