In the final part of her assessment benchmarking series, Kate Foreman explores the advanced level of knowledge and understanding

So, we have looked at who might be considered for basic and intermediate levels of assessment for knowledge and understanding, but what about the third and final grouping, which is 'advanced'?

The first thing to consider is that anyone working at advanced level in any job should complete and revisit the lower knowledge and understanding assessments.

For example, why should a leading oil platform broker not be expected to demonstrate knowledge of insurable interest and proximate cause? Why should the managing director or finance director of a broking group who has no practical experience of broking not be expected to demonstrate a knowledge of the basics of the market in which the firm works?

Those you choose for advanced assessment in any given subject should accept and understand that the foundation of advanced knowledge and understanding is competence at lower levels.

Competence levels
Let us consider a couple of industry roles that might include advanced levels of competence and the respective subjects.

1. Managing director of 30-person authorised firm with no client advisory function and a separate finance director:

Advanced level - regulation, legal duties of directors, relevant company law, insurance market, insurance principles and practice

Intermediate level - law of agency, company accounting, consumer protection law, supervision and monitoring, interpersonal and communication skills, data protection, risk management and human resource law.

Basic level - knowledge and understanding of all products the firm uses, book-keeping, IT.

At a basic level this MD knows what is happening in his company, what advice is being given and by whom. At an intermediate level he has a good level of competence in matters that he deals with on a day-to-day basis but probably delegates to someone else if it is out of the ordinary (risk management, HR, legal matters etc), and he has advanced knowledge and understanding (as it relates to his firm) of regulation (he only delegates to outside specialists when it is very complicated), he has taken time to fully understand the companies act and other relevant law as it relates to the firm and its directors, he knows and understands the insurance market inside out.

Clearly we have just taken a snapshot of the benchmarking of a job specification and, for a senior person, the actual task might take a day or more, but do you see how the standard setting for the most senior person in this particular firm might include a range of levels?

2. Consider the position of an expert technician who has only one role which is to broke complicated business interruption risks. She is not an approved person.

Advanced level - relevant insurance market, finance and accounting, high level business interruption and associated technical knowledge

Intermediate level - broad range of technical and market knowledge, risk management

Basic level - insurance principles and practice, related technical subjects, relevant law (agency, regulation, data protection, money laundering etc), firms specific procedures and compliance requirements.

Again this is just a snapshot, but see again how the levels required for the job vary from subject to subject. Nothing here about HR, supervision or high level regulatory matters. This person has one role only.

Assessment at advanced level can present you with quite specific challenges. For example, how do you assess someone who is an industry expert in their field?

While Biba and CII will no doubt develop generic assessments for advanced level knowledge and understanding that can be drawn upon in conjunction with any learning system, the job specific assessments that are the ultimate measure of FSA competence may well demand some creative thinking.

In the first place any well-run broking firm should have procedures in place to ensure that no person works in an unsupervised vacuum. For example, any broker, large or small needs to create some sort of challenge at high level. Whether by way of a non-executive director (who must be an approved person) or some external form of monitoring, the risk management discipline is a good one.

Equally, where the problem lies in assessing the competence of someone who is an absolute technical specialist, there is a need to define how that job should be carried out and what knowledge and understanding is required to reduce the risks to both customer and firm that might arise if standards of competence are not met.

This approach can have some great commercial advantages, particularly when considering the matter of succession planning. Mapping out a detailed job spec and the procedures of such a role does give you a defined matrix for the training and assessment needed for an ultimate replacement and, perhaps just as importantly, a replacement in the event something happens to a key man.

Here is a simple guide to getting help in mapping out high level assessment:

  • Is the role reasonably common within the industry? Speak to specialists who may have a typical model and suggested benchmarks and methods of assessment that you could use and adapt.
  • Is the role unique to your firm by virtue of a product or service? Generic assessment should be available, but you may have to use a specialist to adapt assessments to include your own special wordings and procedures.
  • Is the role limited to a small number of specialist firms, but otherwise relatively straightforward (eg the person responsible for your major account for collectors' cars)? Generic assessment will cover the underlying advanced level requirements but you may do well to team up with competitors to develop 'niche market' standards. This can often be achieved with the help of a trade association or training and compliance specialists.
  • Is the role so specialised that it is unique or nearly so? In this case you will have to take specialist advice and work with the individual or individuals to develop job specs, standard and benchmarks for the future.
  • And remember above all that knowledge and understanding is only part of the competence measurement process. Just as important is the measurement of application and at advanced level this may well be a mixture of the individual concerned, his/her supervisor and or a external specialist working together to ensure that the job is being done in the manner and to the standards that have been agreed.

    Not following good market practice is a more common cause of negligence than lack of knowledge.

    Market tools
    And finally, one of the most successful tools I have experienced - the weekly internal technical and market issues and development meetings. They occur all over the country in better firms and are particularly common in the Lloyd's Market.

    Bring the team or teams together from advanced level to basic, addressing both firm-specific and market matters:

  • What has happened
  • What is new
  • What the problems are
  • What the opportunities are.
  • And make sure that the meeting is minuted and each attendee gets a copy for their individual learning files.

  • Kate Foreman is a compliance and training specialist at RW Associates
  • Using this CPD page
    For the vast majority of practitioners and indeed support and supervisory staff in our industry, CPD is about regular learning and study that is planned, recorded, timed and evaluated.

    If you are a member of a professional body with a CPD requirement then there will be certain rules regarding the quality and nature of study material, and the way in which it is recorded.

    For staff of GISC members this means recording on your individual training file what the learning was, who provided it and when.

    It might be structured, such as a course, a learning programme or exam study. But it can be unstructured. This form of study encompasses reading the trade press, technical material or taking part in activities to support your professional body.

    Some CPD requirements are points related (a little antiquated) and others require a time value to be allocated.

    For example, it might take one hour to read Insurance Times each week. Most of that could be put as a time value but, in reality, perhaps only an half hour was devoted to learning something. The rule is to be honest with yourself and record the time that is relevant.

    Always take time to make a note of what you felt you gained from the activity. This is useful information for anyone else considering the same activity.

    In response to the popularity of our CPD programme each week's CPD page can now be downloaded from our website. We will be preparing a binder for you to keep these in alongside the results of the exercises.

    To download a PDF of this article as it appears in the magazine click here .