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Supervising supervisors

The role of supervisors is under the spot- light. FSA reports have identified that not all advice is of the quality required and this will cause firms to place even greater emphasis on checking business to ensure advisers are performing to the highest standard.

But is supervision just about checking fact-finds and disclosure documentation? It is also about checking on compet- ence and identifying the training needs of the individual.

In many firms, sales managers take this on alongside their other duties. But there have been plenty of examples where these roles have come into conflict, with the drive for business taking priority. I remember seeing a report where the only training need identified was “to sell more”. So firms must look closely at the individuals they task with business reviews.

There is a need for interaction between the reviewer and the individual, who must be given the opportunity to suggest areas where they feel they need help and support. This demands an environment where a cry for support is not seen as a weakness.

Approaches will vary between different individuals. What will be right for one person will not suit another. The best people managers will have a range of tools at their disposal to help identify how an individual responds. What is their preferred learning style?

We may also examine the scope of continuous professional development. The mortgage industry is fast-moving and a good CPD programme will ensure the individual stays fully advised on developments. It may be argued that this breadth of knowledge is not directly relevant to an advisory role but awareness of current issues helps in boosting the confidence of the individual and their credibility with clients.

What is being suggested is a personalised plan for each individual, designed to eliminate all identified weaknesses and provide the foundation for maximising their potential.

Are there other benefits for firms in adopting this “super- compliant” position? Staff turnover is an issue for many firms and has significant adverse effects. Recruiting new staff is expensive and can impact adversely on customer service. Operating a comprehensive and supportive development programme is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the firm to staff and customers.

So it could be argued that the FSA requirements for training and competence are the bare minimum that a firm should seek to achieve. Many firms are operating schemes that will be found to be fully compliant but unless other elements are bolted on, staff will not maximise their potential.

Unless we take steps to ensure that we maximise our skills, our natural market will become increasingly vulnerable to attack from overseas providers.

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