Managing aspirations

Mark Roberts is head of faculty of financial regulation and corporate and academic relationship management at the ifs School of Finance

The mortgage market has taken huge steps forward in recent years in the standards and benchmarks it has in place, and has worked incredibly hard to ensure the best for its clients. Regulation from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the increasing number of dedicated market exams have all played their part. However, how effective can any improvements be unless they are monitored accurately?

To this end, it is not just important that firms look to have good Training and Competence (T&C) programmes in place, but they also have the personnel capable of overseeing and directing them efficiently.

Delivering full potential

ifs School of Finance, along with other examining bodies, have brought many new qualifications to market over the last couple of years. In a bid to ensure these are being used to their best end and delivering their full potential to the firms and staff that are using them, a qualification has now been launched to provide the skills necessary to oversee and manage these programmes.

The Certificate in Supervising in a Regulated Environment (CeSRE) aims to help those tasked with managing individuals giving sales advice to ensure operations and procedures remain compliant. Experience is important for individuals in this role, but it is also necessary to be completely familiar with the new legislation in place, the way it directly impacts firms and how best to ensure that all of the T&C in place meets the standards that have now been set and which are continually being monitored and upgraded.

The qualification comprises of two modules: UK Financial Regulation and Supervising in a Regulated Environment. The aim of the first module is to give an overview of the regulated landscape and an understanding of how it operates. It sets out the various asset classes and products in existence in addition to explaining the tax and security issues pertinent to them, as well as looking into anti-money laundering and data protection rules. The second module looks more closely at the principles of management, T&C, team development and performance management.

Overlooking key skills?

These skills are necessary in overseeing any development programme within a firm, but are too often overlooked as being something that individuals learn along the way. Promotion and responsibility comes with performance and individuals who do well will see themselves progress through a firm’s ranks. However, in many cases the new roles that recently promoted individuals are asked to take on, comprise many new skill sets that they have no formal training in.

This is certainly the case in the T&C arena and very often it is experience and longevity that see individuals take on the role of overseeing a firm’s staff development programme. While there is no doubt this is a sound method with which to approach the problem, there is also little doubt that many individuals will be forced to feel their way in the dark as they get to grips with how best to implement an effective regime that covers staff across the board, operating in a number of different disciplines.

In larger firms dedicated teams are brought in to manage these operations and will often come from a formalised T&C background. In smaller firms where certain individuals are undertaking a number of different roles, this is not the case. It is for these people that the CeSRE will be most needed and can quickly bring them up to speed with the responsibilities that they carry.

Given the regulated environment now in place, the onus is very much on firms to get this right and the implications for those who do not are far ranging. Loss of reputation, poor customer service and ultimately sanctioning from the regulator, are all threats that loom on the horizon. However for those who supervise their operations correctly, there are also the associated benefits of improved reputation, client service and a smooth ride with the regulator.

Putting in the time

The second module of the qualification is also a required module in the Advanced Certificate in Mortgage Advice and Practice (Adv CeMAP) and so will help those seeking to continue their learning in this field to progress further. Both modules carry an estimated study time of between 40 and 60 hours and so, although weighty in substance, can be studied for over a relatively short period of time. Indeed for the individual capable of putting in only five hours of study time a week, both modules could be completed within a six-month period.

For those aspiring to management positions within larger organisation or who are minded to establish companies of their own in the future, being able to supervise staff effectively within the confines of regulation is essential. Not only will it help bring the best out of staff, but also ensure that firms are operating compliantly.

Given that firms have no option but to work within the rules it is incumbent on them to ensure they do so to their best commerical advantage. If they can implement programmes which deliver to the tailored requirements of their staff, the only result can be a sales force that is more capable of delivering for clients. In a market that strives towards professional recognition, this has to be a key step along the way.