The question we get asked more than any other in relation to CPD is: what exactly is structured CPD?
In a nutshell, structured CPD is something that can be verified, so the focus should be on how to do this. It becomes very important if you are the lucky recipient of a call for audit from your professional body.
Adopting the notion of keeping it simple, there are three crucial steps to follow:
Did you have an outcome in mind when you started the activity?
For seminars, lectures, conferences and other events, formal learning outcomes are usually provided so the job is done for you. If the activity is an internal meeting or session that does not lend itself to formal learning outcomes, an agenda or schedule can do the same job in setting out clearly what is expected.
Can you provide evidence that the activity took place?
Certificates of attendance are the obvious evidence for any kind of formal event run by a third party and sometimes internal training sessions provide a similar document. In the case of internal meetings or sessions, minutes that are circulated to attendees can serve as evidence as they invariably include a list of attendees that proves you were there. If you have a copy of your notes from the session, this can form a more complete picture of what you got out of it than just the record of what was discussed.
Have you reflected on what you learned and how you may apply it?
In many cases, this is the missing piece of the jigsaw and arguably the most important. I am not suggesting that you write an essay after every activity but that you reflect on what you learned and plan what to do with that knowledge to make it worthwhile. We often see people who have done the first part quite diligently and written a sentence or two after each activity in their CPD log but have not gone on to capture the difference that the training is likely to make to the way they work.
Although we all have a set number of hours to complete, the point of CPD is in the outcome it achieves. This may be doing things better, or differently, than before; it may be refreshing or developing new technical knowledge or skills; it may even be making no change at all because the CPD activity has confirmed the efficacy of your current approach.
It stands to reason, then, that any CPD that cannot be verified is, by definition, unstructured.
Most records I see include regular reading of the financial press, which is hugely beneficial for keeping up with legislative and other changes, not to mention benefiting from expert opinion and commentary. Although this reading is unstructured because it cannot be verified (footage on YouTube of you reading the FT will not change anyone’s mind on this point), it is no less relevant or important than structured CPD.
Sam Rees-Adams is director of professional standards at the Institute of Financial Planning