Training days need cash investment

Lenders and insurers could benefit the mortgage industry by focussing sponsorship funds on training events for staff who may not have access to inhouse programmes, says Sue Read

Continuous professional development should be second nature to all brokers. Mortgage Strategy columnist Nick Baxter is right when he says we should continue to take exams throughout our careers.

But I know how difficult it can be to find the time to study and take exams, especially when you are either expected to do so in your spare time or have to sacrifice potentially valuable client-facing time, a particular problem for self-employed brokers.

I’m about to take the top-up equity release exam. This is a short paper and shouldn’t take too much study time but I still have to do it under my own steam.

I can get study aids from the Chartered Insurance Institute but they are not nearly as useful as face-to-face training.

Large national brokerages are likely to have inhouse training programmes or can afford to buy specialist guidance. But training for people like me is hard to come by. Life insurance firms used to run training sessions for IFA exams but they have dried up. Lenders don’t seem to run them either.

For those of us who are appointed representatives, networks could help fill the training gap. Home of Choice has a good online training and educational resource system but while I’ve been impressed with it, I’m sure the system would be greatly enhanced if it included some intensive courses culminating in exams.

We’d still have to take time out of our busy lives and it’s likely there would be financial costs too. But it would offer convenience as well as the benefit of having study buddies to work with. Perhaps some lenders and insurers could sponsor the training, maybe by reducing the money they spend on less worthwhile events. It could benefit everyone.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I had little sympathy with the shareholders of Northern Rock. I put pen to paper, fired it off to Mortgage Strategy and less than 12 hours later had cause to rethink when I saw an edition of BBC Question Time broadcast from Newcastle.

The one category of shareholder I’d forgotten was the employees. Many NR workers must have invested in pension schemes. One chap on the programme was obviously fairly senior and had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in pension and share options.

I’m genuinely penitent for being somewhat cavalier about shareholders and while I stand by my comments about investors who should have heeded the risks, I’m sympathetic to NR staff whose lives will be blighted by this debacle for years to come.