Choosing the required competencies for a given job is the starting point for your assessment programme. Robin Wood explains the benchmarking process

The basics OF appraisals for staff was considered by Kate Foreman in last week's CPD page. Now I want to put a little more meat on the bone and unlock some of the mysteries of competencies and setting benchmarks.

Consider for a moment just how many competencies (skills) might be chosen (and this list is not exhaustive!).

  • Client development
  • Quality focus
  • Integrity
  • Teamwork focus
  • Financial acumen
  • Understands the business
  • Technical competence
  • Oral communication
  • Team building
  • Written communication
  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Strategic thinking/judgment
  • Supervision
  • IT
  • Networking
  • Working in a compliant manner
  • Problem analysis
  • Developing vision
  • Decision making
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Performance results
  • Interpersonal sensitivity
  • Managing performance
  • Personal motivation
  • Planning and organising
  • Project management skills
  • Influencing/persuading others
  • Stress tolerance
  • Self/personal development
  • Negotiation
  • Impact
  • Judgment
  • External networking/selling
  • Setting objectives
  • Achievement orientation
  • Change focus
  • Pick six that might be appropriate to your job, for example an account executive with no person management responsibilities: (Remember to include what the FSA might expect).

  • Integrity
  • Technical competence
  • Customer focus
  • Communication skills
  • Working compliantly
  • IT skills
  • Now let us try to define three of those competencies:

  • Integrity
  • Shows genuine interest in others and seeks to build good working relationships based on co-operation, support and trust. Can be relied upon to "deliver" and be consistent with decisions.

  • Technical Competence
  • Is competent within the specific job role and aware of requirements of regulator. Is aware of internal policies and procedures and working practices consistent with the job role.

  • Customer focus
  • Identifies the needs and requirements of internal and external customers and acts to deliver products and services to improve customer satisfaction and increase the customer base.

    Now let us consider five levels of competence and non-competence.

    1) Contra-indication

    The contra-indication refers to the situation where the person hardly ever carries out the competency and, in many cases, exhibits behaviour to the contrary.

    2) General awareness

    Knows and understands the main features or reasons for the competency. Does not know details, but does know who to ask or refer to. Generally does not have to, or cannot, apply the knowledge and understanding. For example, someone who is not yet competent [a trainee] or someone who needs to know and understand a job, but not actually do it [a supervisor, or someone else who needs knowledge and understanding of a competency but may not need to apply it].

    3) Basic competence

    Knows the main features of the competency and actively uses it in daily work. Able to use the competency normally within well defined tasks, following strict guidelines.

    4) Broad competence

    Knows in detail the features of the competency and uses it with a degree of interpretation. Able to answer most questions (with very few exceptions) regarding the use of the competency.

    5) Expert

    Knows and fully understands the competency and is referred to for advice, interpretation, clarification or determination both from within the firm and from outside the firm (public speaking, writing, expert opinion).

    Consider these three competencies and the five grades for a moment and then see whether you can complete the following table for the job in hand. Put a tick in the box (right) you think is correct for each of the competencies.

    There is no right or wrong answer and, as long as you do not choose contra-indication as a benchmark, there is no reason why 'general awareness' should not be used if basic competence is not critical to the job. For example, a basic awareness of IT might be suitable for this job. In this case you would like a member of staff to be more than basically competent as far as integrity is concerned and also customer focus, but you are content that the technical competence for this particular job needs only meet basic competence standards.

    But how do you set a benchmark that you can measure any person doing this job against? You can do this with a series of yes/no answers. For example:


    1) Has the person reported any inquiries that might be considered suspect?

    2) Does the person have a reputation of being of good moral character?

    3) Does the person have a reputation of acting fairly with staff and clients?

    4) Has the person had any complaints from customers about the standard of fairness of dealings?

    5) Has the person achieved 90% in the firms MC questionnaire on Money Laundering and the Proceeds of Crime Act?

    Technical Competence:

    1) Has the person achieved 75% in the following brokerASSESS knowledge tests in the past 12 months?

    (a) Basic insurance principles and practice

    (b) Commercial market practice

    (c) Commercial packaged and combined insurance

    (d) Liability insurance level 2

    (e) Regulation level 1

    (f) Basic legal principles level 1

    2) Has the person achieved 75% in the firm specific procedures multiple choice assessment in the past 12 months?

    3) Has the person been assessed on at least two customer meetings or role plays in the past 12 months?

    4) Has remedial action been taken and has reassessment met the required standard?

    5) Are there any outstanding learning needs to be addressed?

    Customer Focus

    1) Has the person met the firm's targets for face-to-face insurance reviews?

    2) Has the person met the firm's targets for new client giving instructions?

    3) Has the person met the firm's targets for the completion of customer feedback reviews?

    4) Has the person achieved 75% in the firm's customer standards MC questionnaire?

    Do you see how questions of this nature link to objective standards that might be included in a job specification?

    As an exercise this week, consider the list of competencies and choose six as they might apply to your own job. It could be three or it could be 33, but six well chosen competencies should get to the nub of the job. Then construct the table and select the levels of competency that you think might be appropriate.

    That is stage one, but now think how, in three questions for each, you could establish whether from these key performance indicators, you could reasonably tell whether you are meeting the standards set.

    Finally, a brain teaser of sorts.

    Should someone responsible for compliance in a firm be expected to have knowledge and understanding about insurance principles and market practice and if so, what competency level would you choose as a minimum?

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