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Sue Whitbread: There’s still a long way to go on CPD

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As the year draws to a close, many advisers are probably making resolutions to record their CPD activities as they complete them rather than leaving it until the last minute.

Under the RDR, various measures were introduced to increase the professionalism of retail investment advisers. Two of those measures were to raise the minimum qualification for RIAs from QCF level three to level four from 31 December 2012 and for that level of competence then to be maintained through effective CPD.

Professionalism rules now require all RIAs to complete a minimum amount of CPD (35 hours, of which 21 must be structured). However, the FCA’s objective goes further than mere volume. CPD needs to move away from being a mere tick-box exercise to become a meaningful development process that demonstrates ongoing competence, with accredited bodies providing independent verification via audit.

One year on, there is consensus that RIAs are completing the required CPD hours. However, judging by the reports I get from the IFP’s professional standards team, there is still a long way to go to ensure the activities are relevant and effective. 

CPD records that the IFP has audited this year typically contain long lists of activities. But in most cases there is little or no evidence of any plan or of the activities relating in any way to the adviser’s ongoing competence or development.

Maintaining competence as an RIA involves identifying your training and development needs. This should be done as part of your overall training and competence scheme or as a separate training needs analysis. It is important to know the areas of competence in which you need to maintain your knowledge so that you can meet the requirements of your role, and also which new competences you will want to develop over the next year.

To identify your development needs, a good starting point is to revisit the QCF level four learning outcomes (go to the FCA website or contact the IFP for a copy). These were covered by exams and/or relevant gap-fill in advance of the 31 December 2012 deadline but you may need a refresher.

A good testing system, such as Money Marketing’s CPD Centre, can help identify areas for revision.

There will be technical, regulatory or market changes throughout the year that you need to keep up to date with. In 2013 the IFP introduced a programme of CPD workshops to focus on key development areas and it is running them again in 2014.

Learning needs then have to be turned into specific learning objectives. These should be relevant to your role and meet the requirements of the FCA and your accredited body’s CPD scheme.

Ideally your objectives should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Having a plan in place provides the ideal context for making sure your CPD in 2014 goes well beyond box-ticking and helps you deliver even better outcomes for your clients.

Sue Whitbread is communications director at the Institute of Financial Planning 

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