The CII held a forum on training for the new regulatory regime. Among the topics was the relevance of assessment and qualification. Robin Wood reports

Today's cpd takes the form of an update on thinking on education and learning. And within the financial services and insurance industry, you will see this form of article becoming a more common feature of relevant learning.

Last week, an audience of 200 gathered at the CII to hear speeches from Professor David Jackman, head of training and competence, industry training and business ethics at the FSA and Sandy Scott director general of the CII on the subject of "Training, competency and ethics in a regulatory industry".

The relevance of this to CPD lies in some of the key points, namely CP157, which contains the FSA consultation paper on its examination review.

In the first place, I think it is vital that all those firms facing FSA regulation read this document. You can download it from the FSA website.

To a great extent it focuses on financial services subjects, but there must be no doubt that, ultimately, the general insurance industry will fall into the plans that are ultimately adopted.

Reading this document perhaps gives an impression that the realm of sweaty and nerve-filled exam rooms are descending upon us yet again.

Mediation directive

But read on - what was said on Thursday fuels my eternal hope that, in particular, the two main speakers do actually understand our industry and that the future does look green.

First, all power to Scott who announced publicly that the CII has recommended to the FSA that its view is that compulsory examinations to practice in the general insurance industry is not the right philosophy.

This must be right. The mediation directive itself seeks competence of practitioners to do the job in hand. Examinations, as such, are not the answer to that conundrum.

So, perhaps now when you are approached by the less scrupulous who suggest that the GISC or FSA insist, or indeed will insist, on a particular examination as a prerequisite of working in the industry, you will at least be able to rebut the suggestion that any definitive decision has been made.

However, that is not to say that a qualification process will not be developed or that qualifications are meaningless. Far from it. But it does mean that the forward-thinking experts in the industry do not believe that the current examination process should be mandatory.

Notice how I have begun using the word `qualification'. This is important and leads on to other ideas that Jackman put forward. There is no doubt that formal and robust assessment is a pre requisite of demonstrating competence and it is this aspect of regulation where some exciting and radical thinking is coming through.

The key point here is the assessment of practitioners doing the job. Among the ways of doing this are:

  • Job-focused assessment

  • Different methods of assessment than exam

  • Recognition of different learning styles and styles of demonstrating recall of knowledge and understanding

  • Exams with flexible time limits to allow for those that do not write so quickly

  • Continuous assessment, rather than one-hit cramming sessions

  • The replacement of CPD with the concept of continuous maintenance of competence

  • More emphasis on learning and guidance on learning than training for the sake of it

  • More focus on a modular approach to assessment and qualification so that practitioners can identify with the areas being assessed.

    In short, the current thinking is about caring that the measurement of competence is both relevant and, as far as possible, specific to the ethical practitioner who just wants to give a better and more professional service to customers.

    Interestingly, Scott demonstrated that under the GISC regime (which does not insist on examinations), the number of practitioners entering and succeeding in CII qualifications on a voluntary basis has risen sharply rather than fallen as one might have expected.

    This has certainly been our finding in working with brokers. Having `got back' to the continuous learning process within the GISC regime, the good practitioner actually wants to prove knowledge and understanding, by way of a formal certificate.

    And if the CII, the FSA and the leading trade associations are seeking to devise a system that is accessible to all, non-compulsory and respectful of a good practitioner's academic skills, I think and hope that this trend will continue.

    But beware. This is an option that is respectful of an individual's personal skills and needs, but it is not the soft option. We all have to recognise that we have to be competent and able to prove it on a continuing basis.

    Substantial response

    That may, in fact, be the harder option in the short term, but much of that lies in broking firms establishing robust learning and competence schemes. You can be sure that the FSA will be looking for that, so do not relax just yet.

    I do urge anyone who is responsible for learning, training or compliance, including directors and partners of firms, to study CP157. It is an important document that affects your future.

    Finally, some news of the CPD page. Perhaps we should rename it the continuing maintenance of competence page?

    Thanks for the substantial response to the page which is now just passed its first birthday. We have listened carefully to all the feedback and come the new year we will be adding a monthly full page that will focus on compliance in the form of an "MOT" test.

    This will provide current competence assessment material based on things that perhaps you and your staff ought to know in terms of keeping up to date.

    This will be in a format that you can cut out or draw down from the website for use within your own firm.

    Email us with details of any matters that you think a practitioner should know about.

    If you want some practice in turning it into a multiple-choice or multi-option question please do so.

    We won't guarantee that it will appear in its original form. It may be that a number of people will raise the same issue in different ways, but your feedback is valued.

    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.

  • Robin Wood is the proprietor of RW Associates.

  • RW Associates, specialists in training, compliance and competence. Email,

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