7 tips to get the most out of your professional development plan

The FMA has produced 7 tips to enable financial advisers to develop more meaningful professional development plans (PDPs).

1. Personalise your plan

Ensure your professional development plan (PDP) is personalised to you. Think carefully about the full range of skills you need to have to be a successful AFA. For example think about what technical skills you want to improve on or gain as well as key business and client management skills.

2. Think strategically and ask yourself these questions:

  • What was your experience like with clients last year?
  • What do you think you could have done better?
  • Were there any areas you didn’t feel confident advising on that you would like to include in your practice?
  • What learning opportunities are available that will add value to your clients?
  • What will make you a better AFA and help ensure you continue to be one?

3. Review your PDP regularly

Review your plan on a regular basis, eg, quarterly. When you start, your plan is likely to be idealistic, so it’s good idea to reflect on how you’re tracking and any new training opportunities you’ve identified. This helps your plan becomes a living and breathing document.

4. Keep it simple but relevant

A PDP only needs to be a few pages. Include your reasons for wanting to undertake selected training but take care that it’s not so granular that there’s no room for flexibility. We expect it to be a thoughtful and insightful document and cover the matters required in Code Standard 17.

5. Identify any gaps in your competence, knowledge, and skills

When we monitor AFAs, we focus on whether you have noted in your PDP any competency gaps or areas for improvement and what steps you are taking to address these. Code Standard 17(d) requires an AFA’s PDP to take into account the “minimum level of competence, knowledge, and skills an AFA is required to be able to demonstrate to provide that service under Code Standard 16” – with a view to identifying any areas for improvement or gaps in competence, knowledge, and skills when compared with that level. This may particularly apply if you’re relying on an old competency pathway that’s no longer available for new authorisations.

6. If you’re relying on an old competency pathway that is no longer available

If you think you need to up-skill or strengthen your competency in certain areas as a result of differences between an old competency pathway and a Component of the New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services (Level 5), take the following steps:

  • Write in your PDP if you are relying on an old competency pathway that is no longer available.
  • Identify and write in your PDP any learnings that you think you need to address to bring your competency up to the minimum level under Code Standard 16. To do this, simply compare the learning outcomes for each of the relevant Unit Standards of the Components of the New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services (Level 5) with your current competency, knowledge and skills. For any identified new learning outcomes or areas for improvement, use your professional judgement to determine how best to achieve this. For example, complete a bridging course offered by an educational provider, complete the relevant unit standards, or undertake some other form of structured professional development.
  • Write in your PDP the reasons why you believe you have the competence, knowledge and skills required to provide the services that you intend to provide (notwithstanding any areas for improvement or gaps you have identified). See Code Standard 14.

7. Don’t offer services you don’t have capability to provide

You must have the competence, knowledge and skills to provide any particular services that you offer. Therefore think honestly about whether you have the necessary capability to provide them. If not, then don’t offer that service, and tell your clients you are unable to provide that service. Make sure your scope of service documentation is consistent with this.