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Tech has flexibility factor

Advisers need more flexible and cost-effective learning methods and online systems provide the opportunity to deliver training materials in a variety of media so level 4 and CPD demands are met in the RDR era

Mark Ehlinger
Mark Ehlinger Head of financial services training Focus Solutions

The retail distribution review and its requirements for achieving minimum qualifications dealing with ongoing CPD after 2012 as well as the recent proposals coming out of CP10/12 are presenting a significant challenge for organisations and how they manage the personal development of their staff.

Many organisations are turning to technology to help them meet these varying requirements for a number of reasons, not least because it makes it considerably easier to generate the evidence of CPD compliance required by the regulator.

Achieving level 4 status – need for flexible learning
Advisers need more flexible and cost-effective learning methods. First, there is lack of time, then there is the lack of adviser willingness to spend time away from the office and finally there are reducing budgets for face-to-face training. This move to incorporate faceto-face training as just one part of a blended learning programme is reinforced by the fact that not all advisers learn most effectively by using a linear approach. In order to maximise the chances of passing the level 4 qualification first time, organisations will need to look at providing access to a range of learning facilities and materials.

Online systems provide the opportunity to deliver training materials in a variety of media, including webcasts, online forums, reading material, podcasts and online tests and will effectively cater for different learning styles. In addition, development tracks can be set up within more sophisticated solutions. These enable organisations to set a variety of learning tasks and activities that advisers can work their way through, providing visibility to the supervisor or administrator when they are complete.

Face-to-face courses can also be incorporated into an online solution through a number of methods such as building them into the development track, providing access to a range of courses or providing the ability to give feedback on courses attended, including any key ’take-away’ points.

Ongoing CPD
However, assisting advisers in meeting the level 4 qualification in time for the 2012 deadline is only one of the RDR challenges for organisations.

Considering how they will handle the monitoring, recording and evidencing of ongoing CPD across the organisation is critical. The FSA has put significant emphasis on CPD, focusing not just on the technical knowledge required by the adviser but also on their ability to apply this knowledge in a live environment so they can demonstrate to the consumer that they are up to date and reliable.

In order to deal with the requirement for ongoing CPD and to ensure compliance with the FSA, there are systems available that will enable organisations to establish where knowledge gaps exist and to then create a list of the relevant learning that needs to be shown through objective testing. They also provide the The challenge will be ensuring organisations build processes and procedures that allow them to record, moni-tor and measure an individual’s performanceability for CPD submissions by advisers, not only as part of the annual application for the proposed statement of professional standing but also to be approved by the supervisor, thus ensuring effective controls in this key regulatory area as well as allowing the supervisor to monitor progress.

It is important that where organisations are looking to invest in solutions to assist advisers in progressing towards level 4, they should also take into consideration whether the system can support ongoing CPD and other learning and development requirements after 2012.

Where does CP10/12 fit in?
In June, the FSA issued consultation paper CP 10/12 on competence and ethics. This outlined its proposals in relation to senior management and competence, the role of the supervisor within a firm, qualifications and the governance of competence within firms, all elements that need to be taken into consideration when looking strategically at how to manage the overall development of staff and keeping in line with regulatory requirements.

The challenge will be ensuring that, in addition to the other requirements for the RDR as outlined, organisations build processes and procedures that allow them to record, monitor and measure an individual’s performance and overall competence in a more complete way. Technology is available to support this requirement.

Thinking holistically for a single solution
Technology can provide an effective solution to the various challenges posed by the different elements of the RDR. However, with so many facets to consider, how can you ensure that the solution you put in place to solve one problem will future-proof you for the other changes as well as those yet to come? The answer is to think holistically about personal development and to select a technology solution that will support you across the three required areas – learning and development, testing and training, plus competency.

By keeping in mind the end goal of helping advisers and individuals to achieve their full potential and maximise value to the firm, you will be more likely to select a system that will meet both regulatory commitments and equip staff with the skills they need to undertake their role effectively.

This will ensure that you implement a solution that not only meets your needs today but will carry you well beyond 2012.

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