by Tony Vidler
One of the positive changes for financial advisers in this part of the world in the last year was a broadening of what can be considered Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Now, instead of solely focussing upon technical learning, we have a regime where authorised advisers have to map out their own professional development plan to include hard and soft skills and taking into account the type of work that they do, or want to do. This means that learning (say) negotiating skills can be part of a structured professional development plan for an adviser, and contribute to their annual CPD requirements.
This is an excellent shift in regulatory thinking, and a positive contributor to developing financial advisers with better commercial acumen and people skills.
Interestingly though, a lot of advisers haven’t quite grasped the concept as yet of being able to expand their skills beyond technical competency. We could perhaps take a note of an excellent insight aimed at the youth of today, and use it for our own professional development.
I think that regardless of what the CPD obligations are for any financial adviser there is wisdom in thinking far more broadly about one’s professional development. To paraphrase Jaime, we should perhaps be less concerned with what qualifications advisers want to have, and be more focussed upon what problems they want to solve for consumers.
For instance, financial advisers in Australia will have to engage in further academic learning and the entry point for the burgeoning profession is set to become a university degree. It is probable that this concept will receive a lot more thought and discussion in New Zealand also.
But will it help advisers do a better job of providing professional advice to consumers?
It should…in part. And therein is the catch with CPD. Additional academic learning and increasing technical proficiency does help make better practitioners without doubt in my view. Robust and rigorous learning helps develop critical thinking and objectivity, and provides a sound base of knowledge from which to identify appropriate strategies and tactics for clients. It is therefore an essential element in developing a profession of objective, competent and rational professionals.
Our primary function however is to deal with irrational, opinionated and financially naive or ignorant consumers much of the time.
Simply focussing CPD upon technical competency presents the risk of developing a profession which may well be consistently “right” in its advice, but one which consumers would prefer to avoid dealing with. Objective righteousness, which is delivered dispassionately for the customers own good, regardless of how they feel about it, begins to sound a bit like the legal profession. That’s pretty popular with consumers, isn’t it?
So, a big hat-tip to the NZ regulators for recognising that there is a need to balance the development of professional advisers by enabling them to develop both hard and soft skills as part of becoming better advisers. To be truly effective, financial advisers do need strong technical knowledge together with great people and commercial skills. You need all three to develop rounded professionals whom consumers wish to engage with. Development of a financial adviser professional definitely requires more than academics.