Assessing the more mature practitioners is a necessary, yet delicate task, especially as they may be reluctant to be tested. Waltham Pitglow suggests a tactful approach a subject that came up in so many conversations at the Biba conference and is now common among brokers is presenting a potential problem as FSA authorisation approaches. We have visited it before, but this week we shall deal with it in a little more detail.

I am referring to competence assessment for more senior practitioners at board level and in customer-facing and business-placing roles. Perhaps I mean the 'wrinklies' of the industry, who have been there and done it and who feel thay have no need to go through knowledge and understanding assessments, nor the supervision and monitoring procedures that FSA compliance requires.

Let us be clear on one thing. authorised firms will have to declare to the FSA that all authorised persons are competent to do the job in hand and they will be expected to be able to prove how they came to that conclusion. Furthermore all relevant staff will be expected to carry out their jobs in a reasonably competent manner.

So, a compliance officer and a chief executive have this thorny problem of a 53-year-old ACII-qualified (1963) account executive, who is their top producer.

But he absolutely refuses to undertake any form of assessment and refuses to be supervised and respond to questions from a 'whipper-snapper' of a manager who, at 29, is young enough to be his daughter (his words, not mine). I suspect that there are a few nods of recognition of the situation at this point.

  • want to consider just one train of thought that might help. Look at these facts:
  • Unless this individual already has a history of negligence claims or complaints against him (good key performance indicators) the chances are that a reasonable standard of competence can be achieved and demonstrated
  • Training and or learning anew will be limited to compliance related subjects (agency, money laundering, data protection, FSA regulations, etc)
  • File reviews could well show poor record keeping, sloppy giving and gathering of information, corners cut (particularly in dealing with underwriters, renewal meetings etc)
  • Market principles assessments tend to show up gaps (out-of-date)
  • The individual may well be an expert in a particular area and knowledge assessment will be very focused.
  • The list goes on and it can become a nightmare. But let us look at this rather differently.

    The key requirement of the FSA (and indeed the law) is that this practitioner is competent to do the job. Why not let him tell you what his job is and what he has to do. Let him set the standards that he thinks he should meet under the following categories:

  • Technical knowledge

  • Subjects
    Key facts (those which if he gets wrong the client could be harmed)
    Key procedures (new client, placing cover, renewal, amendments, claims)

  • Firm-specific procedures
  • Compliance procedures
  • FSA requirements
  • Legal knowledge
  • Market knowledge.
  • The important point to realise is that this man has been around far longer than most and is probably far more knowledgeable about the industry than most.

    He is also a qualified man and that deserves respect. He is not a moron just because he has developed sloppy and non-compliant habits. The chances are that he knows it, but sometimes changing from 30 years of doing things one way to doing them another way is as hard as giving up cigarettes, and your nagging him won't help.

    He may be nervous about the concept of assessment and need to be reassured that the compulsory exam goblin is not going to descend upon him in the near future. He may well have heard the horror stories of reasonably competent practitioners losing their jobs in the life industry because they could not write sufficiently quickly. Reassurance will be necessary.

    It is important that the individual understands fully the implications of FSA regulation and the need to prove competence but, ultimately, if you start by letting someone with this experience describe their own job in this way, you may find life a little easier.

    If you need guidance in setting a job specification framework then refer to the Broker T&C Toolkit (if you don't have one email for details.

    You should also give flexibility and discuss with the individual the various methods of assessment. It does not all have to be online tests or written assessments generally. There is room for one-to-one questioning and check-listed discussion.

    Just remember it is quite likely that someone over 50 (and perhaps much younger) is often a person heading for retirement. Grief, unnecessary stress, being patronised and fear are not necessarily ideal ingredients in the menu of life. Don't forget to make it clear and firm in conveying what the regulators require but remember that respect and patience are the order of the day.

    The regulator is as aware as anyone that the professional foundations of our industry were laid by the 'more mature' and while they will insist on compliance that does not mean that they expect unnecessary anguish.

    And a word of warning to those working in controlled functions, such as directors, compliance officers and finance personnel. You will have to be an approved person, and effectively registered and approved by the FSA, so get your job specification designed in good time and your competency assessment and recording underway.

    Your views on our MOT test
    Many thanks for all the feedback on the MOT test. This obviously created considerable interest among readers, some headaches and a few queries.

    A good point from PB that "preferentem" is the correct spelling, not "proferentum". But a few of you implied that we should be using plain English and not jargon. That could have been a valid point but, as professional advisers, it is our job to understand the Latin maxims and be able to explain them in plain English to our clients (hence the questions).

    Best one came for RM, who with a little research has presented an authority that contradicts one of the answers. The question writer has presented his authority (an established text book) and I will report the result next week. My money is currently on RM and not the text book. The important point about this is that not only has RM challenged, but he has done it in a professional manner and with written evidence of his findings. Also

    RM will be able to record all the time he has spent on the exercise on his individual learning file.

    Feedback is always welcome, but do make it constructive.

    This page is edited by RW Associates, specialists in training, compliance and competence.

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