by Tony Vidler
Professional competence is now a clearly demonstrable thing isn’t it? Or is it? Can an adviser be considered as having competence and incompetence simultaneously?
I think so.
Competence has been a primary focus of regulatory reform, and that’s fair enough. Consumers have a right to expect it from their advisers and any career-focussed advisers have accepted the logic of needing to BE demonstrably competent in their area of expertise. However, competence has been very narrowly defined in reality by the rule-makers. One is deemed competent for having completed and passed a course. Often those courses are, in my experience, designed and delivered by inexperienced and incompetent folk, and are generally totally impractical when it comes to arming a professional with the skills and knowledge required to be deemed competent by their customers. So that as a benchmark for professional competence is questionable to begin with.
The are 5 levels of competence – or incompetence – that you might use to describe the professional knowledge and skills. They would be:
1. Ignorance (I know nothing and cannot advise)
2. Awareness (I am aware of issues associated with it, but not how to fix them)
3. Knowledgeable (I understand the issues and many of the solutions, but not all)
4. Competent (I have excellent working knowledge of issues & solutions and can help)
5. Expertise (I am an authority with deep technical understanding and will find the optimal solution)
It is entirely possible – in fact it is highly probable – that any professional will have ALL of these levels of expertise (including “ignorance”) in some area.
The key for professionals is to understand what level of competence they have in any particular area. For example, on my most optimistic self assessment I could not rate myself as anything better than having a level of “awareness” when it comes to currency trading/forex. Frankly, it would be downright dangerous to give me your Yen and ask me to begin trading in international currencies on your behalf….it will almost certainly end in tears for everyone.