Assisted development

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The Chartered Insurance Institute's continuing professional development scheme has recently been subjected to a major review. Fiona Andrews explains how the new scheme will operate and why

Continuing professional development is central to the way the insurance and financial services market is regulated. Indeed, it would seem common sense that, if those in the market are to be considered competent and fit for purpose, they should be able to demonstrate that they are keeping their knowledge and skills up to date.

Examination success is vitally important but most professions recognise that the achievement of professional qualifications is not the end of learning at work - instead it marks a new stage of professional development that continues throughout working life.

The Financial Services Authority's style of regulation also eschews centralised, bureaucratic monitoring of compliance activity by the regulator itself.

Increasingly - and Treating Customers Fairly is a prime example of this - those being regulated are expected to devise their own route towards compliance.

As far as CPD is concerned, this means there is no FSA-prescribed list of tasks and requirements. The regulator simply expects individuals to take responsibility for developing their professional capabilities on a continuous basis, by whatever means they deem appropriate.

The Chartered Insurance Institute's CPD scheme for its members has remained unchanged since its introduction in the mid-1990s. Consequently, a major review has now been carried out, including extensive research, to determine the format of a revised scheme.

The new scheme, which is relevant and practical for today's practitioners, will be introduced in October.

The CII has worked with the Professional Associations Research Network and was a major contributor to a research report Critical Issues in CPD published earlier this year. The report's key findings point to a move away from input-based systems to output-based schemes, where reflective behaviour is recognised.

Evidence also highlighted the benefits of schemes where the individual determines what development is relevant to them, with the professional body providing standards, support and guidance.

The CII's new scheme adopts these principles and provides consistency to help comfort individuals that they are fulfilling their compliance obligations. Adherence to the institute's CPD requirements is a stipulation of qualified CII membership.

CPD can be defined as any activity that is relevant to the individual and assists in their professional development. We are all constantly learning and developing, often without realising it is CPD. The aim of the CII scheme is turn CPD into a benefit, rather than it being seen as a burden.

As well as helping someone develop professionally, it should aid their career. Ideally, activity should be a balance of development relevant to the current job role and that which helps build professional and future career prospects.

There are, however, three fundamental areas that CPD should cover: technical knowledge; business knowledge and skills; and interpersonal skills.

CII members will be required to assess the benefit achieved by them in relation to any activity undertaken and recorded. This means that if an individual feels that a specific activity has contributed to their professional development, they can choose to record that activity on their CPD log.

The scheme is flexible and means activities can be undertaken that are not directly relevant to the individual's job role; for example, management development, finance, IT or language training.

By moving the scheme to be output-based, with credits accumulated towards an annual total, the CII believes it will encourage development activity that is relevant. This provides the most personal benefit and meets the requirements of the employer and the regulator.

From time to time, there will be significant developments in market practice that change core technical and business knowledge or interpersonal skills requirements. When this happens, the CII will require its members to update their knowledge on a mandatory basis; for example, the introduction of FSA general insurance regulation, the CII's Code of Ethics and Conduct or significant legislative changes affecting the settlement of claims or underwriting criteria.

Planner tool

A further enhancement to the current scheme will be the introduction of an online planner tool. In addition to allowing the individual to record CPD activity, this tool will offer a planning and development facility to help identify and assess skills gaps, determine and plan appropriate activity to aid career development and then record the benefits achieved as a result.

Monitoring will take place every month, when a random selection of CII members will be asked to submit their CPD log for checking and assessment.

A CPD review panel will then examine a selection of logs and provide constructive feedback to the individuals concerned, to help support future development.

The CII's new CPD scheme reflects the current tone of regulation, by treating individuals as responsible professionals that will comply with its requirements as a matter of personal pride and integrity. It is highly flexible and recognises the huge variety of disciplines and levels of experience and capability that exist.

CPD is not an end in itself. The CII scheme will be a great aid to compliance but, perhaps more importantly, it will contribute to rising levels of professionalism across the market and thus to improved service to customers - which, after all, is the ultimate objective of any activity of this nature.

- Fiona Andrews is head of continuing professional development at the Chartered Insurance Institute.

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