Time to review your professional development plan



Continuous professional development (CPD) isn’t just a compliance obligation under the new regime, it is an important part of upskilling in your career, says Financial Advice NZ CEO Katrina Shanks


In one of our recent ‘Bring in the Experts’ webinars, trainer and compliance expert Leigh Hodgetts spoke to attendees about the fundamentals of an effective professional development plan: why it’s important, where to start from, and what professional development means under the new regime.

It was an insightful and well-received session, with plenty of practical suggestions to take away – you can watch the full webinar here. In the meantime, below are some pointers I have drawn from the webinar, for any adviser looking at making the most of their CPD training.

Why do you need a professional development plan?

Do you currently have a professional development plan (PDP)? And if you do, how often do you report on your PDP and adjust it?

We started our webinar with these two key questions, and while most participants signalled they had their PDP in place, many also admitted to not reviewing it quite as often as they would like.

That’s understandable: in the business of running an adviser business, it can be challenging to find the time to sit down and reassess your professional development priorities.

However, as financial advisers know well, having an up-to-date PDP is always worth the time that it takes: it means getting your ‘professional house’ in order, and ensuring that you have the competence, knowledge and skills to deliver positive client outcomes across the board.

How often do you need to plan?

Advisers are now familiar with Code Standard 9, which requires anyone who provides financial advice to create a PDP at least annually, and progressively complete learning to keep their competence, knowledge, and skills up to date.

Usually, a CPD year goes from 1 January to 31 December, so it’s a good idea to map it out at the beginning of the year, and periodically adjust it along the way. Of course, this is not a prescriptive rule. In fact, nothing prevents you from planning for the rest of the year right now, if need be, and then do a restart in January 2022.

The bottom line is – find what works best for you, your business, and your clients.

Finding your ‘starting point’

Now, let’s assume that you’ve managed to carve out some time to devise your PDP. How do you actually get started?

With so much to potentially learn about, especially in this rapidly changing environment and market, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and lose focus. The available time is also limited, so making sure it’s spent efficiently is key.

Leigh Hodgetts suggests the following steps:

  • First, go through a gap analysis and identify any knowledge gaps you may need to address in your area(s) of expertise
  • Second, think about what else you might like to learn – something that’s not necessarily product-related or within the scope of your advice, but that you’re passionate about and enjoy learning about
  • Third, consider any formal qualifications you need to complete

This should give you a roadmap to guide you and check yourself against, keeping in mind that CPD is not just a mere box-ticking exercise – it’s all about multi-disciplinary growth.

Think holistically

It’s crucial to note that, unlike pre-FSLAA professional development, the new regime is not prescriptive in terms of minimum requirements for points, credits, or CPD hours. What matters is the competence achieved and maintained through continuous learning, and how it helps you serve your clients.

Good client outcomes are the compass to steer your efforts. So, when undertaking your gap analysis, always bring it back to how it’s likely to help your clients. What do they need to know? How else can you assist them? You may want to start within your areas of advice, and then expand the training further to other topics you’re interested in.

These can stem from clients’ questions you’ve received and/or personal interest. The reality is, clients see advisers as points of reference, so it can be beneficial to have a good knowledge base across a wide range of subjects.

Of course, this doesn’t mean becoming an expert in everything, but it can help you build the soft skills you need to engage and support your clients, including pointing them towards other experts and resources if needed.

Here to help with tips, tools and resources

During our session with Leigh, we discussed some practical steps to stay on track with your PDP, including:

  • Completing your plan
  • Setting up your own CPD register
  • Setting review dates
  • Adding or updating CPD activity

Once again, New Zealand advisers have numerous tools and resources available to them in this space, from private training providers through to webinars, podcasts, roadshows and conferences, as well as the regulator.

Plus, at Financial Advice NZ we have created an interactive workbook on how to meet CPD requirements and what type of CPD to consider to be fully compliant. You can find the workbook and other resources in the tool section of our website here.

And don’t forget Financial Advice NZ delivers a Bring in the Experts webinar every Wednesday, 10am.