The CII's new modular system of learning is good news all round, says Andy Cook

The CII conference last week was a curate's egg. The most pleasing aspect was the introduction of a simplified qualifications structure based on a modular system of learning that allows qualifications to become more portable.

With just three levels of qualification, everyone can be compared on an equal footing (see page 10).

The great benefit to the industry is that young professionals can avoid becoming too specialist, too early on in their careers. With the modular format, people can choose to specialise in, say, claims, but continue to take an interest in, say, liability underwriting. This means that if they fancy a change of direction later in life, the door is still open. And this, so the thinking goes, should help us retain people who want variety.

An added advantage is that this kind of skills transfer is refreshing. One can imagine entrenched underwriters, for instance, having their thinking challenged by someone from a different department. That can only be good.

Another plus for the conference was the support of the new FSA chief executive John Tiner and many senior directors from within the industry.

On the minus side, the quality of breakout sessions was variable. And the debates didn't quite live up to their promising premises, with the arguments covering much of the same old ground on issues such as trust and image.

But on the whole, one can only congratulate Sandy Scott and his team for increasing the relevance and interest of the conference. It is a shame that more people can't seem to afford the time off these days to contribute.