T&C Networker Meeting – 20th July 2022

On Wednesday 20th July  2022 ClearStep Consulting will be hosting their first face to face (in over 2 years) T&C Networker meeting for T&C/L&D professionals across the industry.

The meeting will be held in a central Leeds venue.

If you are interested in attending please drop us an email at info@clearstepconsulting.co.uk.

Consumer Duty through a T&C lens

Lynne Hargreaves, T&C expert from ClearStep Consulting recently joined Jeff Abbott from 2be Development Consultancy as a guest speaker on Worksmart’s recent webinar “Consumer Duty through a T&C lens”.

This was a valuable debate and discussion on the key aspects of the newly proposed Consumer Duty principle with over 300 individuals registered attendees. The recording and slide deck can be accessed below:

On demand recording – your access to a recording of the entire session

Slide Deck – view and download the slides used by the presenters on the day

T&C Networker Meeting – 16th March 2022

On Wednesday 16th March 2022 ClearStep Consulting will be hosting a virtual T&C Networker meeting for T&C/L&D professionals across the industry.

Items on the agenda include:

  • The key elements of a T&C strategy – best practice
  • T&C Record Keeping – how do organisations address this?
  • The Consumer Duty – approach and activities
  • Regulatory updates
  • Fitness and Propriety tolerances – the opportunity to benchmark.

If you are interested in attending please drop us an email at info@clearstepconsulting.co.uk.

T&C Networker Meeting – 17th November 2021

On Wednesday 17th November 2021 ClearStep Consulting will be hosting a virtual T&C Networker meeting for T&C/L&D professionals across the industry.

Items on the agenda include:

  • Fitness and Propriety tolerances – the opportunity to benchmark.
  • The FCA focus on empathy  – how are firms taking this forward?
  • How are firms preparing for long-term hybrid working solutions?
  • The application and purpose of  T&C.

If you are interested in attending please drop us an email at info@clearstepconsulting.co.uk.

What’s in a name?

The short answer is a lot. For those that have read Romeo and Juliet you will remember that Juliet is not allowed to associate with Romeo because he is a Montague. She complains that his name is meaningless and if he had a different name he would be the same man. So, what is so special about a name…?

Often, the first piece of information we have about an individual is their name, from which we form judgements very quickly. This information can make you inclined to think in a positive or negative way, setting the future direction.

Now, I am not a communications expert; however, I recognise the immense power of language and the importance of thinking carefully when making naming decisions. The simplicity of a name can determine various outcomes as can the psychology. We hold associations with certain words and names.

In Financial Services we like to put a label on things, whether that be a policy, process, or system. The regulator is the same, just take a deep dive into the FCA Handbook.

In the world of Training and Competence (T&C) the names and labels used can significantly impact the perception and desire to deliver tangible results. Whether that be the call scoring categories you use or the system where activities are recorded.

What do you call your documented arrangements? Is it a T&C Scheme, Competency Framework, T&C Policy, Development Programme, Management Framework, People Policy, Quality Process, or some other permutation?

Ask yourself, what contributed to the naming decision?

  • Is it that historical that no-one remembers?
  • Is it because the FCA call it T&C and mention the word ‘scheme’ in their Sourcebook?
  • Did you want staff to take the arrangements seriously managing the risk and quality?
  • Did you want staff to develop good practice management and improve the likelihood of better customer outcomes?
  • Did you consciously decide the name, aligning the arrangements with your culture and strategy?

Recently, I undertook a review and evaluation of a T&C scheme. Part of the review included asking those in scope their thoughts and views. How did they view the Scheme? Why did they think the arrangements were in place? What did it achieve? Interestingly, the scheme was viewed as a ‘tick-box’ exercise designed to keep the organisation in business. It wasn’t just the name of the arrangements that led to these views, it was also the underlying activities and accompanying tone of voice.

Competence is not ‘tick-box’. Nor is the customer experience you aspire to deliver through your people. Building trust and a differentiated customer experience requires a staff skill set of technical expertise as well as cognitive and adaptable behaviours. To achieve this, you need a T&C strategy in place which is designed to deliver these competencies supported by an appropriate tone of voice.

How do staff view your arrangements? Is a review required?

Call scoring and the names attributed to the results can be a very emotive subject, especially for the individual. Again, a myriad of naming conventions exists across the sector. ‘Fair, fair with development, unfair’, ‘competent, competent with development, not competent’, ‘achieving, developing, below’, ‘red, amber, green’, ‘1, 2, 3’ ….and other combinations.

What does your scoring terminology and observation practices convey? Is it…

  • fear and consequences?
  • negativity and unconstructiveness?
  • development and support?
  • encouragement and self-awareness?

Why should you care?

You need to care. Will staff who worry about consequences positively and enthusiastically apply your policy and process in their customer interactions? Will they think ‘outside the box’ and strive to make that special effort for customers?

Diverse, well-motivated and competent staff means better decision making and innovation. It means a consistently delivered customer experience, an advantage in the market. Inspired and confident staff strive to resolve issues and work collaboratively.

I’m not saying that simply choosing fantastic names for all your T&C arrangements will guarantee success. As you know there’s a lot more to it than that! However, names and labels do influence how your arrangements are perceived. They set the tone for the desired outcomes. And they influence the results. What results do you want?

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Do you agree that the names you attribute to your T&C arrangements influence the results you achieve? Do your arrangements drive a ‘tick-box’ approach? What are the naming conventions you use that drive a positive staff experience?

Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

T&C Networker Meeting – 22nd July 2021

On Thursday 22nd 2021 ClearStep Consulting will be hosting a T&C Networker meeting for T&C/L&D professionals across the industry.

Items on the agenda include:

  • The FCA Consumer Duty consultation paper – what are the gaps and priorities for firms in taking this forward?
  • Vulnerable Customers – update on progress and challenges
  • SM&CR – the opportunity to benchmark approach
  • 3 lines of defence – how does this work in relation to colleague competency?

If you are interested in attending please drop us an email at info@clearstepconsulting.co.uk.

High Performing Supervisors – what does it take?

Continuing with the theme of Training and Competence (TC) excellence, my previous blog highlighted a key component of success was the necessity to have supervisors with the skills to coach, assess and support individuals.

I learnt my supervision ‘trade’ in the 1990’s supervising a geographically spread team. This was then followed by a move into Learning and Development (L&D) where I facilitated lots of Supervisor and Management Development programmes.

Leading teams and supporting the development of individuals was the most rewarding part of my corporate career – spending time with an individual, understanding their strengths and development needs and agreeing the next steps to support their growth.

The Financial Conduct Authorities (FCA) rules and guidance requires staff who are carrying out activities covered by the TC Sourcebook to be supervised by individuals with the appropriate technical knowledge and the necessary coaching and assessment skills to act as a competent supervisor. Individuals also need to demonstrate how this competence is being maintained.

The Senior Manager and Certification Regimes (SM&CR) also place an onus on those carrying out fitness and propriety (F&P) checks to be able to ‘certify’ competence and capability, putting a premium on an individual’s ability to assess and develop skills. Firms are obliged to ensure that staff understand their responsibilities and are competent to carry out these assessments against clear standards, building a portfolio of evidential findings.

Whether you call them supervisors, line managers, team leaders and/or whether they are governed by the TC Sourcebook, I believe investment in this population is key in developing skilled and effective teams who can deliver fantastic customer outcomes.

So, what does it take to develop competent, high performing supervisors?

1. In-depth technical knowledge

Individuals need the required knowledge to effectively undertake their responsibilities. Firstly, you need to determine the knowledge requirements for the role and then decide how you are going to impart, assess and evidence this knowledge both initially and ongoing.

The TC Sourcebook provides guidance and rules on whether an appropriate qualification is required and/or should be considered for those supervising individuals who are not competent.

Firm specific knowledge on applicable policy, product, process and systems is also important. Not only the knowledge pertaining to the products and services but also the wider people policies. You need to be confident in the individual’s understanding around your firm’s recruitment, performance and employment practices and how these dovetail with the approach to T&C and Certification.

I also urge firms to consider supporting the attainment of a relevant ‘Supervision’ qualification. I took the Chartered Insurance Institutes ‘H15 Supervision and Sales Management’ 18 years ago and it provided a great foundation knowledge of TC, leadership, and behavioural models. It also encompassed everything from how to recruit, train, coach, motivate and manage, including disciplinary and the laws relating to employment. All relevant stuff for those involved in people management.

Evidencing the maintenance of knowledge is one of the bigger challenge’s firms face; are once a year, point in time e-learning tests really demonstrating on-going technical knowledge?

2. A comprehensive range of demonstrable valuable skills

The skills of a supervisor are crucial in the consistent and effective assessment of the teams they lead. The ability to identify and tailor solutions which reflect learning styles and identified competence gaps is not something which is created overnight.

As with knowledge you need to determine the specific skills you require your supervisors to apply on a regular basis. For most firms these will include observation, feedback, coaching and analysis skills. Others may include the skills to hold effective one-to-ones, identify training needs and devise SMART development plans.

Next is the definition of the accompanying standards. What does ‘good look like’ in relation to coaching and feedback, what is required to be documented following a one-to-one? What is not acceptable? It is the definition of these standards that provides the benchmark from which training objectives are agreed and validation assessments are designed. It is also the step which some firms struggle with, not necessarily having the experience to determine what can be subjective practices. However, once these standards are defined they support greater assessment objectivity and consistency of approach.

Supervisors then need to be supported via more formal training interventions which aim to equip them with the skills to conduct their role activities and assess their initial competence. The learning is then continued via their on-the-job experience and relationships with others.

In a recent webinar I co-hosted with Adrian Harvey, CEO, Elephants Don’t Forget, 38% of participants polled stated they were only somewhat confident or not confident at all that their managers could demonstrate a consistent approach to TC.  Perhaps this is an area for evaluation and improvement in 2021 for your firm? Look at the FCAs positive and negative indicators for the assessment of F&P https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/senior-managers-certification-regime/solo-regulated-firms#revisions and gauge your performance.

Supervisors and line managers are absolutely key to the people experience. So why is it that firms sometimes scrimp on this area? The leadership and culture of a firm is reflected in their approach to TC; how would you rate your approach?

Now I’d like to hear from you:

What do you think it takes to develop high performing supervisors?  Maybe I didn’t touch on one of your principal strategies? Do you agree that the approach to TC and investment in people is reflective of firm culture?

Either way, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

T&C excellence – what does it take?

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently published its best practice guidance for the treatment of vulnerable customers, highlighting again the importance of staff having the right skills and capabilities. This increasing focus on culture, conduct, capability, and competence, by the regulator is nothing new and firms really do have to take the role of Training and Competence (T&C) seriously in this new reality.

I read the vulnerable consumer case studies, and this caused me to reflect on my own experience after being diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. As with the FCA findings, my interactions with firms were a mixed bag.

I phoned my insurer about the critical illness cover I’d sold myself 15 years ago. The individual was extremely knowledgeable, they answered all my questions and explained all the technical bits in a way I could understand. They were sympathetic, clearly articulated the next steps and at every junction kept their promises regarding contact. I have to say my expectations were exceptionally low before ringing however, the whole process was surprisingly hassle free and extremely quick.

Next, I rang the provider of my annual travel insurance policy to understand the impact of my diagnosis on the policy. The individual was abrupt and showed no concern or empathy whatsoever. At the end of the short call, they informed me they could not continue to insure me, and I would need to go elsewhere.

These two experiences were at opposite ends of the spectrum. There were key themes which really resonated on the importance scale for me as a vulnerable customer. And to be fair, they are equally prominent in my expectations for all my customer interactions.

Staff Knowledge of the relevant products, services, and support tools   

I want to interact with staff who know what they are talking about. I want to be talked to in a way I can understand and if they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does.

Staff skills of listening, empathy, and accountability

I want the member of staff to listen to me, let me talk, and not make assumptions. I want them to really engage and show sympathy and understanding, not false condolences. I want to be treated as an individual. Is it wrong to want someone to go out of their way to help you?

So, how do you achieve this panacea of consistent customer experience? You need competent and capable staff. Dare I say, you need to put your employees first in your endeavours towards T&C excellence? Firms that do not invest in T&C and L&D will not achieve that leading customer experience.

You need to ensure your T&C approach encapsulates the following:

  1. The desired staff competencies. Drill down to identify the essential knowledge and skills, not just for current roles, but roles of the future.
  2. The relevant competence standards and the tools to measure. What does good look like and how will you know an individual demonstrates it consistently?
  3. A recruitment practice which identifies whether the competencies and capabilities are held.
  4. Training that builds the appropriate knowledge base and skill set for new starters. As well as strengthens the cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills, and the adaptability and resilience skills of existing staff.
  5. Managers with the skills to coach, assess, and support their teams individual learning needs. This means managers who can identify and tailor solutions which reflect learning styles and competence gaps.
  6. A learning and development culture that strives for continuous improvement. An organisation where all individuals are motivated and engaged to drive their own development.

I would love to hear your insights on T&C excellence, so please do comment and feel free to like, share and follow me for future articles (I am challenging myself to write an article every couple of months!).

FCA publishes final guidance on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers

On 23 February 2021, the FCA published its guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.

From a Training & Competence perspective firms need to ensure their staff have the appropriate skills and capability to recognise and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers.

The guidance goes on to provide examples of how some firms have worked with a variety of organisations to help increase the understanding of front-line staff to the needs of vulnerable customers.

Clearstep believe of equal importance is the defining of competencies and standards required for all staff in order that vulnerable customers experience good outcomes and receive consistently fair treatment.

FCA publishes consultation paper on their approach to regulating the Funeral Plans sector

On the 2nd March 2021 the FCA published Consultation Paper 21/4 on their proposed approach to regulating the Funeral Plans sector.

For those with an interest in Training & Competence the proposals are pretty much as expected – firms need to demonstrate their employees have the appropriate knowledge and competence, are of good repute and a minimum of 15 hours training and development is undertaken per year.

Firms affected should not underestimate the timelines required to define their customer journey, design, and deliver the associated training, as well as developing their people policies and frameworks accordingly.

Find out more here: https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/consultation/cp21-4.pdf