Once we have cleared away the snow and dusted down the latest consultation paper (CP 09/31) from the FSA on the Retail Distribution Review, the three year countdown will start in earnest.
One of the key developments this year will be the change in Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Registered individuals are used to maintaining appropriate CPD, although in many cases there has not been any measure or robustness to the schemes used.
It is rather like everybody gives good advice. I have never heard an adviser tell me they give poor advice or do a bad job for their clients. Unfortunately we know that not all advice is of a high standard and not all CPD (even if properly done) meets the new requirements.
IFP welcomes the clarification obtained from CP 09/31, which now sets out the list of qualifications that meet the FSA's "no regrets policy".
While there are still some anomalies with the list, advisers can now assess their positions and, more importantly, what else (if anything) they need to do over the next three years to meet all the requirements. The professional bodies are currently helping their members with these issues.
There is of course the likelihood of new assessment methodologies and an inevitability that there will be new examinations over the next few years. That said, it would be disastrous if advisers sit around waiting for some easier alternative to appear - because this certainly won't be the case.
Looking a little more constructively at the challenges ahead, good quality accredited CPD is going to be very important for advisers looking to fill any gaps in knowledge or to consider effective programmes moving forward. In future, there will be far more robust checking of CPD records and matching outcomes of the learning to personal development programmes - all positive features.
CP 09/31 suggests that advisers who are members of accredited Professional Bodies will be assumed to have met the requirements. There is an obvious hint here that advisers might be better suited at this stage finding a professional body that meets their requirements which should extend beyond letters after their name.
Organisations like the IFP are creating communities of like minded individuals, in our case by focussing on the particular needs of Financial Planners and Financial Planning businesses. Qualifications and support thereafter reflects the specific needs of the individuals and, where appropriate, of the business.
One of the most positive innovations in 2009 was the development of the IFP's online CPD platform. This fully supports the needs of advisers and can also be white labelled for the business to use within its T&C scheme. Not only does it provide a universe of events, activities and learning (both accredited and not accredited by the IFP) from which to choose, but a place to record individual needs and development plans.
Structured and unstructured activities can all be recorded to ensure that the appropriate "mix" of CPD is undertaken. This also means that the inevitable auditing and relicensing processes become more streamlined for the adviser, their supervisor and Professional Body.
Now is the time for advisers to really decide on the role they want to perform, within what type of business and also what competences they will need for success. Next is the need to evaluate which organisation will best suit their development needs and business requirements to ensure the maximum benefit is obtained from any investment made.
There will continue to be a plethora of choice of conferences and events as the year progresses. It's important that the right decisions are taken early on to ensure that the maximum progress and benefit can be obtained. The drive towards higher professional standards will generate increased numbers of Financial Planners and Paraplanners as 2010 unfolds.
The IFP certainly looks forward to serving their needs and those of this growing profession as we head towards 2012.
Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP)
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