Planner competencies under the microscope

Simon Hoyle


August 21, 2017


A major research project enters a new phase today as it turns its sights on assessing the required competencies and proficiencies of new entrants to the financial planning industry as they emerge from university.

It’s the next stage of a project designed to achieve consensus across the industry on what knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours are required by competent and professional advisers, in all levels of experience.

The study has already recruited more than 500 industry participants to provide insights and responses to determine consensus on the required competencies. The project will culminate in a white paper to be released at the Association of Financial Advisers conference later in the year.

Industry-wide consultation

The new Advice Competency Framework is being produced by the AFA and the Beddoes Institute, and supported by Asteron Life and Kaplan Professional. The head of research and development for Beddoes, Adam Tucker, says the firm has collated and reviewed the competencies already described in existing educational syllabuses and curriculums, as well as the available frameworks used by licensees.

It is engaging in what Tucker describes as “a structured process of industry-wide consultation involving consumers, professional associations, academics, industry, licensees and advisers” to achieve consensus on what competencies, skills and knowledge are regarded as the most important.

The new phase of the research will focus on the level of proficiency required of a trainee adviser fresh out of a tertiary course. It will also ask how much more proficient they should be after one, five and 10 years in the job, Tucker says.

The Beddoes Institute has been researching and publishing for a number of years on the key qualities, skills and behaviours that clients, claimants, policyholders and consumers believe advisers should have. Earlier research is available in such publications as the AFA white papers, Pathways to Excellence in 2012 and The Trusted Adviser in 2013.

“The Advisers Competency Framework project was designed to ask advisers themselves, licensees, academics and regulators what qualities and competencies advisers need in order to deliver high-quality services, and then to provide a platform to support the formation of a consensus,” Tucker says.

“By taking this approach, this study brings Beddoes Institute’s work of the past five years full circle and provides an evidence-based roadmap for a client-centric profession.”

Tucker says the competency research coincides with the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) beginning its task of re-designing education, professional and ethical standards for advisers, developing an industry-wide exam and setting the requirements for the supervision of new entrants to financial planning during their first year.

The competency study will “give advisers a voice in the debate on what advice is and what knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours are needed to deliver a professional service”.

“It is hoped that the results of the study will be a useful resource in the redesign of adviser education and continuing professional development,” Tucker says.

“The framework will be presented in an actionable publication describing the competencies that all stakeholders agree advisers should have. As such it may be used with confidence to design educational initiatives, to create focus for mentoring and coaching, and be used to evaluate adviser performance.”

Tucker says the first phase of the competency framework research has been completed and Beddoes has conducted more than 40 structured interviews with licensees, regulators, advisers, life companies, suppliers to the sector and consumers.

Consensus on requirements

“During the interviews experts were asked to describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that advisers should or must have and the themes that emerged were summarised as consensus statements,” he says.

An initial batch of 17 statements have been put to an online panel, who were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Only statements relating to training, qualifications, conduct and client management – such as developing relationships and interpersonal communication – were included in this round of voting.

“Consensus had been previously defined as 70 per cent or more of the panel agreeing with each statement,” Tucker says.

“At this stage, more than 90 per cent of all respondents agreed with all statements, meaning that we have consensus on all statements.

“In addition, we’ve already received over 1000 written comments providing additional information which we’re currently working through.”

Tucker says advisers who provide feedback in the new phase of the project will not only help to shape the industry consensus view, but will be provided with an executive summary of the research when it is completed.

Note: this article was edited on 21/8 to name the partners to the Advice Competence Framework study.

TOPICS:   Adam Tu,  Beddoes Institute

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