Last week's CPD proposed that training alone would not allow a business to flourish within the FSA regulatory regime, and that competence was the essence of development. Mac Eddey reviews the questions he set the case for being Lions rather than porcupines and ostriches was proposed last week and the following question posed:

"Consider the following statements and decide which six are most appropriate to the objective of providing customer protection."

Let us unfold some answers in the time honoured fashion of my expressing an opinion. This means that you do not have to agree.

a. I passed the exam by getting 60 marks out of 100

Great for self esteem, but what about the 40 marks that were not achieved? Does this mean that 40% of the time we give wrong advice? It's what we don't know that's dangerous.

Examining bodies need to wake up to the fact that some knowledge is nice to have, but some is really vital. Examinations are evidence of knowledge on a particular day. They do not prove competence every day. (3 out of 10)

b. My employer thinks that I should get 20 out of 20 in the multiple choice test each year on regulatory and legal matters that relate to my job

Now that's more like it, but the assessment must be sufficiently stringent and is only a small part of the process of competence assessment. (7 out of 10)

c. We fill in coaching forms every time impromptu on-the-job training takes place

What happens to the forms? Open another box of ring-binders. Someone needs to look at what has taken place and assess this against a plan. (4 out of 10).

d. We fill in coaching forms every time impromptu on the job training takes place and my training manager checks them once a month

That's more like it. We have evidence that it is being done. Someone is taking notice of what is happening and can act appropriately. Now we can begin to assess the effectiveness of the training given. (9 out of 10)

e. I am a graduateSo what? I have the interpersonal skills of a broken milk bottle and half the charm.
(0 out of 10)

f. I have worked in the industry for 30 years since leaving school

But do you have 30 years' good experience or one year repeated 30 times? Have you never had a complaint in all this time, never done anything wrong? (0 out of 10)

g. I volunteered to be a compliance officer and am assessed regularly on my knowledge of General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) rules

You really need to get out more. Only a small part of compliance is about rules. The big picture is about running a better business. (2 out of 10)

h. I am being trained to be a compliance officer

Now that is more like it. Every regulated firm should have one. Being a competent Compliance Officer is a rewarding and important job in a regulated environment. Gone are the days that the compliance officer is the in-house policeman who no one wants to mix with any more. The modern compliance officer is the lynchpin to writing more sustainable business. (10 out of 10).

i. My employer insists on insurance qualifications before we can deal with the public

Then go and work for someone who understands that examinations don't prove competence. I used to work with someone who qualified as a chartered accountant in 1956. Every Finance Act since then had passed him by. (3 out of 10)

j. My firm encourages qualifications as a means to promotion

Absolutely right. Qualifications are about self-discipline and commitment to the industry.

If I am faced with two individuals who act in a compliant manner, are reasonably competent to do the job and can deal with clients well, I am going to pick the one with the commitment to qualification every time.

Remember that qualifications are not just about written exams. Continuous assessment is just as valid an approach. (6 out of 10)

k. My employer feels that a high standard of generic knowledge of the insurance industry is required before I become a supervisor

Quite right too. A supervisor needs to be able to take a wider view than those being supervised. Hardly anyone sets out to do things the wrong way. A supervisor needs to know what might happen in a given situation and often that experience can be gleaned only from knowing what goes on across the industry.

Too many general insurance organisations have disposed of the wisdom of the grey hair brigade - which these days starts at 35. (10 out of 10)

l.50% of my training is about dealing with customers.

If you are dealing with customers, or supervising or training those that deal with customers, this is critical. Competence is about the application of knowledge and understanding and this application takes place with customers, for customers and by customers. (10 out of 10).

Conclusion
Of course these are only my opinions. However, I would just stress that it's what you do day-to-day that is really important. Yes, it is nice to have professional qualifications, but we should always be aware that it is the process of studying that brings us the benefits, not the possession of the certificate.

And the exams themselves can be suspect. All too often we see examiners trying to catch people out, looking for the minutiae rather than the core. This doesn't help anyone except the examining body, which is assured of another set of exam fees next time round for the re-sit. Learning should not stop once we have the letters after our name. Knowledge is ephemeral, it goes out of date, we forget bits - sometimes the really important bits.

If we are to grasp the true nature of being competent - and hands up those who wish to be incompetent - we need to keep trying.

An amateur is someone who practises until he can get it right, a professional practises until he cannot get it wrong. n

  • This week's CPD is provided by Mac Eddey, partner, Training Design Studio. 01372 362000. Email: mac@trainer-direct.co.uk

    This CPD page is edited by RW Associates, specialists in training, competence and compliance. Email:
    ruylopez@rwassociates.softnet.co.uk

    How to use CPD
    This free Insurance Times reader service is intended to help you improve your skills and understanding from the comfort of your office or home. All you have to do is read the text and answer the multiple-choice questions. The answers will appear in next week's issue.

    Why CPD is important
    The Financial Services National Training Organisation (FSNTO)'s mission is to improve the quality and skills of the workforce as a fundamental requirement for the sustainable competitiveness of the industry. We fully support the practice of continuing professional development (CPD) as a major contributor to achieving this aim. Many people across the sector are required to undertake CPD by virtue of the work they do or the professional body to which they belong, but everyone can benefit from continuing to develop their knowledge and skills.