With regulation a hot topic for all intermediaries who sell health insurance, training to attain the necessary standards of competence could become an essential requirement.
Currently, of course, there is no compulsion for unregistered intermediaries to receive any training at all. Some take advantage of insurance company-sponsored programmes but these can be little more than instruction on how to sell products.
Other options for intermediaries include setting up their own in-house courses or investing in external training from consultancies. This second option can be too expensive for some.
For IFAs, it is a different story. The increasing complexity of life and investment products on the market, mean training is part of PIA rules and is required to protect the customer. Indeed, another reason for the high emphasis on training in the IFA sector is to avoid a re-run of the pensions mis-selling fiasco which took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
This strong emphasis on professionalism prompted Scottish Provident to sponsor an IFA training initiative, the Supervisor Training and Competence Award.
Scottish Provident has a dedicated IFA training manager, Robin Carr, who is co-ordinating the programme. He says his company’s involvement substantially reduces the cost for IFAs: without sponsorship, such training would cost around £2,000, but with Scottish Provident’s help this is reduced to around £700. And, as Carr points out, this sum is similar to the cost of a one day seminar.
Courses are run by a consultancy, Progress Through Training and local Training and Enterprise Councils.
Carr comments: “For IFAs who are in the big networks, training is often less of a challenge. We decided to sponsor the supervisor aspect as this is a vital area which needed support.”
Within an IFA firm, training is adapted to suit the needs of new entrants, recent entrants with some experience, advisers, “competent” advisers and supervisors.
And it is now compulsory for all registered IFA firms to have a training and competence scheme. Firms with less than 10 staff need to have an outline written plan of their training and competence arrangements, while those with over 10 must have their arrangements detailed in depth.
Even so practitioners are not excluded and must show they have access to the PIA’s training and competence guidance notes.
Carr describes training for supervisors as critical and points out that the PIA insists that any member of an IFA’s staff who is responsible for coaching, assessment, training and monitoring methods must have gone through relevant training.
To gain the award, IFAs need to attend four workshops which last either one or two days.
The workshops comprise an introduction to link training to business needs. This is followed by a second workshop which looks at the individual’s training needs and outlines the training and competence plan. The third workshop covers the design and delivery of training and provides coaching skills. It is followed by a final workshop based on assessment and feedback.
The course last some five months, and includes the four workshops and a minimum of three consultancy sessions to be held at the IFA’s workplace. These sessions will be held on a one-to-one basis and provide the opportunity to discuss any problems and review progress.
Once the course has been completed, delegates received a professional qualification awarded through the University of Oxford delegacy of local examinations.
The Financial Services Authority will take over responsibility for training and competence regulation, but Carr believes that with high standards now in place, it is unlikely there will be much change to the existing rules and structure. The rules themselves are only two years old, having become effective in October 1995.
IFAs who attend the Supervisor Training and Competence Award course do not need to have any existing links with Scottish Provident, but Carr says clearly it is hoped a relationship will develop.
The Training and Competence award is hard work, but as Carr says: “We rely 100% on IFAs for our business and we need to make sure the quality of those we work with is really good, which is why decided to give this training our support.”
To find out more about the supervisor training and competence awards, IFAs should contact Robin Carr on 0131 558 2712. He can also be reached by e-mail at email@example.com 121