Another injury playing football last season led to another visit to the physiotherapist. These visits are becoming as regular as the seasons themselves and these days it’s a win if an injury isn’t season-ending.

But this one was proving difficult to diagnose with accuracy. It hurt doing this, but not doing that; it hurt doing another thing, but it was OK doing something else.

Why not just treat it with ultrasound, like a previous physio had suggested for other injuries? A waste of time, apparently. That tool for this set of symptoms has become outdated and discredited. While it’s still favoured by older practitioners, younger practitioners have been trained not to waste time on something that it has no actual clinical value.

(In the end the injury was resolved by an injection of cortisone that had to be guided – funnily enough – by ultrasound).

Experience counts for a lot when it comes to delivering professional services, not only like physiotherapy but also like financial advice. Academic qualifications alone do not adequately prepare an individual to practice. That’s in part why many professions require individuals to undergo a period of close supervision before they’re let loose on clients, and it takes time to hone the so-called soft skills.

On the other hand, experience alone does not automatically and necessarily mean a practitioner is delivering contemporary or even effective service. The physio who sends a patient off for an ultrasound may be conforming to the best practice of years gone by, but wasting the patient’s time and money and tying up resources that could be used in situations where it really is useful, all while getting no closer to an effective treatment.

The best mix for any professional is a mix of a meaningful formal qualifications and ongoing training, coupled with practical experience. That’s why the degree requirement and professional year for new financial advisers are so important, and it’s also why we should be very cautious about any moves to allow experience alone to substitute for qualifications.

The industry has accepted that a high level of formal qualification should be necessary for anyone who wants to get in. It’s currently still debating what level and type of qualification is appropriate for practitioners who are already in and want to stay.

If we’re willing to accept an adviser’s experience as a proxy for formal qualifications – as the financial services minister Stephen Jones is currently considering – we need to be sure that they don’t end up like the old physio referring patients for outdated treatments.

The profession’s continuing professional development regime must be onerous, rigorous and consistently applied right across the industry, so there’s nowhere to hide and there’s no opportunity for licensee arbitrage, as there historically has been on other licensee-related issues.

It can’t just be a tick-a-box exercise, poorly structured and laxly administered. It must ensure a practitioner’s knowledge and skills are continuously refreshed and brought up to date.

As things stand, an adviser must complete a minimum of 40 hours of CPD (more or less a working week) each year, split into four areas with specific minimum times for each:

  • Client care and practice: five hours
  • Professionalism and ethics: nine hours
  • Regulatory compliance and consumer protection: five hours
  • Technical: five hours

It’s up to licensees to keep records and ensure advisers are meeting these minimum standards. If an adviser fails to do this, it must be recorded on the ASIC Financial Adviser Register and licensees must make its adviser CPD records available to ASIC on demand.

If the latest financial adviser register data is to be relied upon, only 130 or so current advisers failed to meet their annual CPD obligations in 2019 or later years.