The Retail Distribution Review has been a catalyst for raising professional development across the profession, with the introduction of the diploma benchmark qualifications for advisers and the expansion in the number of individuals who are now chartered and beyond.
This positive development is central to a thriving profession. The challenge now is with new technologies, automation and evolving working environments that new skills are in demand, especially as clients can now access improved reporting and a plethora of guidance easily.
My concern is whether our collective professional development journey is fit for tomorrow’s stakeholders – our clients, advisers, employees and the wider community.
Are we aligned to ensure that we build trust enabling advisers and their teams to demystify, build empathy and reassure clients of the value of advice?
One of the most significant trends in professional development is the rise of online learning. Thanks to the proliferation of high-speed internet, smartphones and other digital devices, advisers and support teams can now access a vast range of online learning, webinars and other training resources.
This has made it easier for people to fit professional development into their busy schedules, learn at their own pace, and avoid the cost and inconvenience of in-person training.
The rise of micro learning – breaking down training materials into bite-sized chunks that can be consumed quickly and easily – is particularly suited to the modern work environment, where advisers and support teams are often pressed for time and must juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.
Micro learning also allows for more personalised and flexible learning, as professionals can choose the specific topics they want to learn about and focus on their individual areas of weakness.
A different assessment method
Despite the many opportunities presented by the future of professional development, there are also several challenges that need to be addressed.
One of the biggest challenges is the need to ensure that professional development programmes are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic background and the spectrum of learning styles.
These advances in learning contrast with the minimum adviser diploma standards, which, since the introduction of the RDR, have remained relatively unchanged at diploma level.
There has been little change in testing methods for diploma students since the introduction of the original exams.
The Chartered Insurance Institute and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment still require exams either in person or virtual, and these are all focused on the regulator’s technical learning outcomes.
Recent moves towards remote examinations at the CII have been problematical, although it is clearly the right direction to embrace new technology.
Only the London Institute of Banking & Finance utilises part coursework for its diploma-level qualification. This innovation should be welcomed.
As part of my MSc in finance I considered the benefits of coursework, which proved to be a far more inclusive option for many students who were able to manage their work life balance as they juggled family commitments.