Is continuing professional development continuing to develop insurance professionals? Lindsey McDonald reports

When continuing professional developement (CPD) programmes were introduced in the 1990s, they were hailed as the future of staff development.

But, although CPD recognised as vital in principle, many in the industry including the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) are questioning whether it is actually worth the paper that it is written on.

CII marketing director Steve Wellard says: "The problem with CPD is does it actually develop you? We are currently reviewing our scheme with the intention of making it more robust and credible both to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the public."

Random selection
Although he refuses to go into details of the review at this stage, he says the intention is make it a best in class programme - better than the programme implemented by the Law Society and the medical profession.

Some consultants though feel the main problem with CPD is that it not properly monitored. The CII currently monitors only a random selection of 5% of its members.

But if someone is failing to meet the yearly points requirement - which differs according to chartered level - they can face expulsion.

CPD is also compulsory for a further 1,400 members of the Society of Technicians of Insurance.

The CII has adopted a broad definition of CPD - that "the activity must result in the individual learning something new".

At Groupama, training and development manager Trevor Ray says its year-old scheme has been "extremely well received" by the staff.

"We see CPD as a way to help and support our people to increase their knowledge. The market is changing pretty rapidly out there and it is to our competitive advantage to stay ahead of the game," he says.

What CPD consists of is open to interpretation. It embraces everything from, studying for professional qualifications to setting time aside to read industry magazines, with a range of internal/external training and research in between.

All sorts of areas are covered, from improving industry specific skills and technical knowledge to courses on interpersonal communication, management and IT skills.

At Groupama, CPD is structured around obtaining 150 "CPD points" in three years. Points can be earned from a number of activities, not just studying for professional qualifications.

Research and project work are rewarded as much as use of the company's internal learning suites.

"The company values creativity and innovation, and we feel that if people are helped in learning new things, it obviously increases their knowledge, but it may also trigger ideas and other innovations," claims Ray.

"It is our way of trying to ensure our people have a method of keeping in touch and thinking about innovation that is out there in our market."

Insurance college
Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) has long attributed its low staff turnover in part to its substantial investment in staff training including CPD.

Three years ago it established an "insurance college" to consolidate all of its technical training and development functions under one virtual roof.

The company's UK commercial technical training and development manager, Fiona Andrews, runs the college.

She says: "The insurance college is very much based around the idea that we would like to see people demonstrating their ability, rather than just being able theoretically to tell us what is needed.

"So it is taking the information and actually transferring it into a working environment.

"Part of the CPD programme that we have in the college is running a series of master classes, based around what you could describe as hot topics," she says.

R&SA, which has seen the benefit to its business, not only in terms of staff enthusiasm, but also with a reduction in both underwriting and claims leakage, is now working towards introducing a more formal link between ongoing development and promotion.