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Going the extra mile is a win-win

Mark Hutchinson

There has been much debate in recent years about the point and purpose of continuing professional development (CPD).

While some advisers view the process as a box-ticking exercise, the majority have always paid close attention to keeping their knowledge up to date. Financial planning is a very knowledge-intense profession, and with laws and regulations changing all the time, keeping abreast of the latest pension changes or tax legislation is bread and butter for most.

But, like most things, the more you put into planning your CPD and wider professional development, the more you, your clients and your business will ultimately benefit. However, while CPD has become the buzzword for post-retail distribution review professional development, it is really just the element that maintains competence.

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Former US president Franklin D Roosevelt famously said: “There are many ways of moving forward, but only one way of standing still.”

Today, the majority of professional advisers have a clear plan of action for meeting their commitment to CPD, but for those keen to advance their knowledge and skills, it is often hard to find the time to think more broadly about the best way to move forward from a wider professional development perspective. Thinking about our place in our chosen market inevitably brings the competitive environment into clearer focus and gets us thinking about demographic, cultural and technological change.

At the Personal Finance Society’s 2015 National Financial Planning Symposiums, futurologist Dr James Bellini offered some insights into how consumer behaviour was changing. He reminded us of the speed and impact of new and disruptive technologies impacting various sectors and leaving them unrecognisable in just a few years.

Many of us are now familiar with Uber, the huge international taxi-connection firm. Its uniqueness is down to the fact that it owns no taxis. Holiday booking is an industry that has quickly moved from the high street to the web, with Hotels.com being the biggest room-booking website in the world. Likewise, it owns no hotels.

At the same time, we are all familiar with the rapid demise of Blockbuster, the video store chain, driven out of business by a couple of new kids on the web, Netflix and LoveFilm, who made it cheaper and more convenient for us to watch the latest movies without leaving our favourite armchair.

I am not for a minute suggesting that financial advice is moving online. While there has been a lot of noise recently about so-called ‘robo-advice’, the ‘advice’ element is a bit of a red herring.

Robo is more about the new technologies available to support and streamline offline advice processes. While algorithms can create and rebalance investment portfolios based on assumptions about risk, and possibly add value in for simplified needs, they cannot provide sophisticated individuals with holistic financial planning.

The important thing is that advisers should not discount such advances as irrelevant to them and their clients. They must make sure they investigate and heed the changes that are afoot, give due consideration to synergies and assess the impact and opportunities for their own business.