Adaptive and diagnostic is the way forward

Kaplan Professional welcomed the recent announcement from Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer, who confirmed the introduction of adviser education reforms into Parliament by the end of the year.

Increased professional standards are desperately needed to rebuild consumer trust and confidence in the sector, especially if financial advisers aspire to be held in the same regard as other professions. It is no secret we have actively campaigned for many years for the lifting of the education bar from the current RG146 level.

The proposed standards offer quality education providers a tremendous opportunity to innovate to support advisers, both existing and new, confidently embrace the new requirements.

Raising professionalism and creating a culture of compliance needs to start with changing the way adviser competency and education is assessed. We need to be careful to avoid enforcing a rigid approach because existing advisers have widely varying levels of knowledge, education, backgrounds and experience. It is imperative that we find scientific-based education approaches that recognise the practical application of the knowledge and skills advisers have gained throughout their career journeys.

Our position

Anyone who has been involved in education, whether teaching or assessing, understands a one-size-fits-all model is doomed. For a considerable time, we have focused on a strategy to accurately and scientifically measure advisers’ existing knowledge and skills to apply a more personalised approach to learning.

This centres on utilising adaptive testing and artificial intelligence to determine knowledge levels in required areas of curriculum and then teaching to the gaps. It seems common sense, but the fundamental concept is to measure what advisers know and then teach them what they do not, rather than repeating what they already know. In other words, not making them do courses for the sake of doing them.

At our end, we have partnered with world-class psychometricians from University of New South Wales (UNSW) Global to utilise the latest scientific advances in measurement in order to develop valid and objective assessments to support the validity and structure of our curriculum. It is critical that any competency assessment is independently verified. If the industry relies on assessments and tools that are subjective and administered by licensees or interested parties, we run the risk of going backwards.

Bridging programs should be based on knowledge, not qualifications

The minister has confirmed there will be no exemptions into the national exam, so all advisers, regardless of experience, will be required to sit the exam. As the industry contemplates the ramifications of this exam, we strongly believe diagnostic assessments should provide the framework for any future adviser bridging programs.

It is our view that the logic of the proposed legislation, which prescribes advisers bridging programs based on their qualifications against an Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) level 7 benchmark, should be re-examined. We think consideration should be given to basing the bridging program on gaps in knowledge against an AQF level 7 assessment. If constructed as an accurate diagnostic assessment, the exam could serve a secondary purpose of determining the bridging course for existing advisers.

The diagnostic we have built with UNSW Global is now being used by many licensees and individuals for a variety of purposes. It allows advisers to gain an in-depth understanding of their current knowledge levels and where their gaps are; it allows them to start practicing for an exam in supervised conditions; it allows them to understand where they should focus their ongoing, continuing education; it provides just-in-time training on the questions they get wrong; and it allows them to benchmark their knowledge against the industry.

The benefits of a global reach

The work we are doing in adaptive assessments is just one item of a large-scale innovation agenda we are pursuing. Being part of a global education company puts us in a unique position to tap into worldwide trends, utilise advances in technology and access some of the world’s best learning scientists.

In the near future, advisers will benefit from an executive leadership program based on world-renowned research in psychotherapy and neuroscience, and an artificial intelligence engine that instantly compliance checks all documentation and social media content. We anticipate all of this will play a key role in the development of the adviser of the future, one who is digitally savvy, empathetic and technically outstanding.

As we do this, we will continue to leverage our relationships with our many corporate clients and industry associations to ensure we play as large a role as we can in the development of the financial services profession.


Brian Knight, CEO, Kaplan Professional

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