The What, Why and How of Generic Skills: A Financial Planning Case Study

By Cameron, Craig; Brimble, Mark et al. | Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal, August 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

The What, Why and How of Generic Skills: A Financial Planning Case Study


Cameron, Craig, Brimble, Mark, Knutsen, Julie, Freudenberg, Brett, Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal


INTRODUCTION

A key component of financial planning moving away from an "industry" and towards a "profession" in Australia is an educational framework2 which facilitates the development of both technical knowledge and generic skills. Technical knowledge represents knowledge about a particular discipline area (such as superannuation) whereas generic skills are not discipline-specific and can be applied to a variety of contexts, including higher education and the workplace (Bennett, Dunne & Carre 1999). Educational standards have traditionally failed to keep pace with the growth of financial planning services and the growing complexity of technical knowledge and generic skills required. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) attempted to standardise entry requirements through PS 146 (now RG 146). However, the large volume of participants and commercial pressures to provide faster and cheaper educational programs led to incoherency (FPA 2009). In response, the Financial Planning Association (FPA) formed the Financial Planning Education Council (FPEC). FPEC released a curriculum and accreditation framework in 2012 which established degree level studies in financial planning and accreditation processes for providers as the requirement for membership of the professional body (FPA 2010; FPEC 2012). ASIC also released CP 153 which details an assessment and professional development framework for financial advisors (ASIC 2011). This was followed by a consultation paper that proposes a move to AQF level 7 (Bachelor level) by 2019 for RG146 training standards. These developments highlight the push for higher education standards across the sector. However, there is little agreement between stakeholders with the FPA/FPEC proposals not aligning with the proposed RG146 framework which remains product area based and in a competency, rather than professional standards, framework. This is further exacerbated by the changes necessitated by the so- called Future of Financial Advice reforms which are changing planning practice and may lead to additional skill and knowledge requirements.

In terms of generic skills in financial planning there has been little scholarly attention. The main exception is Jackling and Sullivan (2007) who undertook a quantitative study of skill importance and competency of financial planners. In a survey distributed to FPA members, respondents were asked two questions: (a) which skills are perceived as the most important for career success by financial planners? (skill importance); and (b) How do financial planners rate the standards of technical and behavioural (generic) skill acquisition of recently qualified financial planners recruited in the past three years? (Competency). This revealed that listening skills were ranked the most important skill, with the greatest skill deficiencies in listening and questioning skills (behavioural) and superannuation and retirement planning (technical) (Jackling & Sullivan 2007). The findings confirmed anecdotal evidence and industry surveys highlighting skill deficiencies in financial planners.

This paper expands the literature on generic skills in financial planning education through a qualitative study of 24 financial planning firms that had recently recruited an intern and/or a graduate completing a degree in financial planning. During semi-structured interviews, financial planners and practice managers were asked to select the three most important skills sought when recruiting graduates or interns and the three skills that interns/graduates are most deficient in. The study then moves beyond the "what" of generic skill importance and competency addressed by Jackling and Sullivan (2007) to the "why". Respondents were asked why they selected the three skills as most important and most deficient. This contextualises generic skills by enabling employers to ascribe their meanings to those skills (Tempone et al. 2012). The study provides a third dimension to generic skills by seeking industry input on "how" generic skills could be incorporated in education programs to address the skill deficiencies. …

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