Are we too set in our ways to learn?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD), according to the FCA, is “an activity designed to achieve a defined outcome” and forms a prerequisite of brokers’ demonstration of competence. Yet in my travels over the last eight years, evidence of relevant CPD has in many cases, been sadly lacking.

I have been presented with several reasons why CPD logs are lacking, one of which is: “I’ve been broking all of my life, there’s nothing I don’t know.”

This is an interesting disposition because CPD, as we all know, plays a valuable part in keeping knowledge and skills up to date. Not only that, it is a regulatory requirement, but alas, in some respects, one can take a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead… (get it?)

So why am I mentioning this?

Well in my inimitable fashion, I want to draw an analogy. Here goes (please bear with me):

You may be aware that I am a keen motorcyclist, working in my own free time, as a volunteer for Manchester Blood Bikes. To become a rider for the charity however I had to demonstrate my competence. This was undertaken during my induction whereby I was asked to ride a predetermined route closely followed by an assessor. At the end of this session, his decision was final: pass or fail.

I’m pleased to say that I passed.

Conscious however of the importance of the cargo I am often asked to transport, I did not want to settle on my laurels. I wanted to improve my riding and my skills for two key reasons:

  1. I wanted to be a better and safer rider; and
  2. I needed to up my game because of my volunteering.

However, as an ex-National Moto-cross Champion in my youth, and a bike rider since: “I’d been riding for years therefore there’s nothing else I needed to know…”.

In March 2018 I enrolled with the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), joining a local Advanced Rider group called the Manchester 500 (a registered charity) with the intention of honing and refining my already plentiful skills.

Boy was I wrong: After my first ride out with a Grade 1 trained Motorcycle Police Officer he summed up his assessment by describing my ride in less than complimentary terms.  

It did get better, though, so fast forward a number of months when I passed my Advanced Test (second time round I have to confess – the first time I was guilty of ‘target fixation’ and broke the speed limit: 37 in a 30. Strict liability meant an instant fail).

So how did I get from the cocky ‘experienced’ rider to an advanced one?

First and foremost, I quickly dispensed of my arrogance and over confidence that I knew everything. Secondly, I accepted I could learn more and thirdly, I wanted to improve.

Fast forward another 12 months and I am nearing completion of my Observer training which will allow me to assess those that wish to improve their riding, just as I was assessed 12 months earlier.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Personally, I thought I knew everything until I challenged myself and challenged by others to such an extent that I want to continue my learning and strive for my Masters.

In the land of insurance, the message must surely be the same.

Notwithstanding the fact that a robust CPD programme is a regulatory obligation (also enshrined within the IDD) none of us know what we don’t know. According to Donald Rumsfeld (ex-US Secretary of Defense):

“there are no "knowns.

There are things we know that we know.

There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know.

But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don't know”

(NATO Press conference 6/6/2002)

My riding career was based on known knows and known unknowns. The IAM taught me that my riding evidenced unknown unknowns. I sought to change that.

CPD is the same. You may know what you know, you may also know what you don’t know, but most issues (I have found) are created because of the unknown unknowns. A robust training and development programme should not be a mechanism to reinforce what is already known, but instead a tool to identify what is not known, understand why it is not known and bridge that gap. The below is a perfect illustration:

(Adapted from The (Institutional) Competence Cycle of Learning)

Now more than ever, CPD is a positive we can all focus on. Hopefully, this article highlights the vital importance of maintaining standards and striving to develop ourselves on a personal and professional level. In my volunteering example, not keeping my skills up to scratch could be a very serious matter.

It is no different in our professional lives. We need to remember that when working for clients, we should have their best interest at heart – it is their businesses and livelihoods on the line.

CPD is a regulatory requirement, not an optional extra and underpins what we all yearn for, and that is to be regarded as a professional.

Remember: amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

About the author

Bruce has worked in financial services for the whole of his professional life, including 11 years as a Compliance Director of a US owned Independent Financial Advisory and Wealth Management business. At RWA, Bruce leads the Audit and Conduct Risk department from our Manchester office. He is RWA's lead consultant to the Guernsey Financial Services Commission (GFSC).

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