Being competent in your job is what regulation requires, but if you move to another part of the industry the learning process starts again. Robin Wood proposes a solution

One interesting part of competence is its development. While the industry is becoming used to the idea that the minimum standard is reasonable competence to do a given job (which is also the legal standard), in isolation it is clear that 'stagnation' can set in.

We have all heard the argument "I am competent to do my job, so what else do I need". In fairness, we should never criticise a person for wanting to do no more than his job to a high standard.

Indeed, it is my experience that the general insurance industry could not survive without a good proportion of practitioners and support staff who take that view.

Many such people 'work to live' rather than 'live to work' and the bedrock of any successful broking firm is staff who know their jobs inside out.

But what modern regulation does is to emphasise the need to measure and prove that competence on a regular basis - and to ensure that competence is up to date.

Measured competence
CII director general Sandy Scott coined the phrase 'continuing maintenance of competence', and certainly the learning systems that are emanating from Biba and the CII, indicates that the thrust of this message is turning into a reality. And this will revolutionise the way in which we value and measure what competent staff do within the industry.

But what about development? What about those people in the industry who do not want to stand still?

We need a bedrock of measured competence within the industry, but for the future, whether it is a small or large broking firm, we still need to consider moving that step ahead. Certain groups of staff need to be prepared and competent to move into new and often more challenging jobs.

Let us consider a group of criteria that might involve what could be referred to as 'creative development' rather than 'lateral development'.

When an individual comes into insurance, clearly the amount of learning required is substantial. The amount learned is exponential in time. But is it right to teach only about the specifics of the job they are going to do, or is there greater value in perhaps adding another dimension to the learning process?

There could be some form of learning - perhaps by way of a qualification dealing with basic generic knowledge of the industry and unconnected with the specific post. There is no regulatory need to do this. But when we consider the next group you will understand why creative development might have been preferable from day one.

Consider when someone is promoted to a new job. He will have to be trained and assessed at that level. But what is guaranteed is that generic knowledge will become more important as the individual progresses around the industry. And some of the knowledge acquired that was not specific to one job will become more relevant in the next.

From a training point of view, perhaps it might have been more sensible to have started the process of generic learning earlier. Perhaps a CII FIT test? Maybe a start at the Certificate of Insurance Practice?

The point is, that if we limit ourselves to assessment of competence for the job in hand, say motor clerk, and we want to promote that person to giving advice on small business insurance, we suddenly have a log jam of incompetence. From a regulatory perspective, this has to be addressed all at once before the person can undertake the job unsupervised.

If only we had undertaken creative development during the two years that the individual was a motor clerk, the transition to the more complicated role would be easier and probably cheaper.

For those changing jobs within a firm or standing in as a locum for someone who is absent, the same reasoning applies. If an individual is not assessed as competent he should not be given a job unsupervised.

As a small to medium sized broker, how on earth are you going to achieve this without starting someone from scratch?

These are just three simple examples, but in each case, they involve a member of staff who is not doing the same job for years on end, but individuals who may be changing roles every few years.

Creative development of competence is about extending knowledge and understanding beyond the job that one does, either for reasons of general interest or really just planning ahead. Creative development is much more than keeping up to date with what you need to know about a job.

Learning point
Let me be clear that the first priority for any broker at present must be developing a plan that will assess and maintain reasonable competence to do a job.

The second is to respect all staff who are competent to do a job and are happy with their lot.

The real learning point is that once you have done all that, a regime of creative development (in its many forms) will set you above competitors, who limit themselves to minimum compliant standards and probably save you time and money as a member of staff (new or existing) takes on a new job for any reason.

The maxim should be: new job equals new competence assessment even if you are standing in for someone who is away for any reason. If something goes wrong when someone who has not been assessed as competent is doing a job, you may have the regulator to answer to (or even worse, the courts).

If you want that professional edge, where it is appropriate, do try to build creative development into your T&C scheme. It is good for customers, good for business and should save you time and money in the long run.

How to get out of the lateral development flatland

  • Acquire non-job specific qualifications
  • Join non-job specific insurance forums and societies
  • Take on a broader range of learning opportunities
  • Apply to be mentored in another department (say a couple of weeks a year)
  • Document private study.
  • 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.

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

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