Let’s start with what the Oxford dictionary has to say on the matter. An accreditation is “The action or process of officially recognizing someone as having a particular status or being qualified to perform a particular activity.”
So far so good – and leads us to rule number one of client service: that it be performed by qualified accredited individuals. If you don’t have the relevant financial services exams under your belt, you shouldn’t be providing sensitive financial advice to clients. In our industry, there are no take-backs. We can’t afford mistakes, because we’re the people clients rely on with their financial security.But now let’s get a bit more ambitious with our argument…
Are having your financial services exams under your belt enough?
Are accreditations enough in and of themselves? Does becoming a qualified financial adviser mean that you are forever qualified to dispense advise without brushing up on your skills? We’d say not.
Let’s tread into the realm of analogy and example. A computer programmer from the 1970s would have been working in BASIC or C – languages popular at the time. Pick her up and deposit her into 2020 – and chances are she won’t have a clue what to do when it comes to debugging Instagram. Yes, she’s accredited, and has degrees to boot. But her knowledge is no longer current.
A bit of a long-winded argument, I acknowledge. But the point is that our business changes rapidly. Markets move, new funds launch, old ones become inefficient and are replaced or restructured. Macro economic movements occur round the clock, and in frequent cycles. Risk and return parameters fluctuate. And importantly, the regulations surrounding savings, investments and pensions are constantly changing.
In this milieu, an accreditation acquired two years ago is already two years out of date. The business that we’re in requires us to not just be up to date, but up to the minute. Financial advisers need to stay abreast of new products, new technologies and new regulations that inform their business. Outdated information will just not do.
The industry is coming around to the importance of accreditations. Activists and brands – are advocating fiercely to ensure basic industry-wide qualification standards.
It’s a good first step, but nowhere near enough. As an industry, we now need to focus the spotlight on the importance of continuous Learning & Development. All too often, firms sink resources into on-boarding good talent but then don’t bother investing in keeping this talent sharp and well-informed.
Yet professional development is the most important investment we can make. It not only helps firms draw better talent and prolong rewarding careers, but is only fair to the clients we serve.
Training and development should no longer be seen as a perk but an absolute necessity. For accreditations are no longer enough in a market changing by the minute.
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