Banking on e-learning

Norwich and Peterborough Remortgages Training Methods

Developed by: Absolutely Training
76 Watling Street, London EC4M 9BJ
Tel: 020 8618 1120

With current government initiatives prompting industry watchdogs to monitor standards across the financial services industry more closely than ever, staff training has grown in importance for most financial institutions. Good training has become a mission-critical component for companies keenly aware of the consequences if business is not conducted within the watchdogs’ guidelines.

Operating more than 50 branches across the east of England, Norwich and Peterborough Building Society (N&P) was keen to turn the new era of regulatory compliance into an opportunity to overhaul and update the company’s staff training and development resources.

“Old-style codes of practice have traditionally governed the selling or advising of financial products in the UK,” says Palmer. “With no real checks and balances, these codes became prone to local interpretation, ultimately producing only loose guidelines for self-regulation. Even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult to comply with industry guidelines that are subject to local definition.

“Now things are changing, there are clear and unified standards for advisers across the entire financial services portfolio. Reacting to the Financial Services Authority’s (FSA) reform programme, underscored by fines and prison sentences as a possible outcome, companies such as Norwich and Peterborough must deliver the skills and training infrastructure that our financial advisers need to work professionally within a well-defined set of industry standards.”

Working closely with internet training specialist Absolutely Training, Palmer started the cultural change process necessary to familiarise staff with the new web-based learning infrastructure early in 2004. With the FSA set to introduce a new set of compliance measures for mortgage advisers on 31 October 2004, Palmer had a predetermined milestone to build on.

“Using the ‘Mortgage Day’ deadline (31 October 2004) as our focus point, in February 2004, we embarked on a development programme designed to put e-learning at the heart of our training portfolio for mortgage products,” she says. “By slowly introducing online elements into the training mix over the course of the year, our advisers were able to familiarise themselves with the new interactive learning techniques via bite-sized chunks over an extended period of time.

The finished website blends the key training components we need from Absolutely Training’s e-learning portfolio, with custom-built content developed specifically for Norwich and Peterborough’s employees. By the time ‘Mortgage Day’ arrived, everyone in the business had successfully completed the entire course.”

Quality service

By bringing internet-based training into the learning mix at N&P, Palmer has been able to develop a staff training portfolio that trains more people to better standards in less time than ever before. While new regulatory pressures mean that training requirements have increased by about 30% over the past 12 months, new web-based learning and tracking modules are delivering new efficiencies to absorb the pressure without increasing N&P’s overall training budgets. New online knowledge acquisition techniques mean that staff members attend live face-to-face sessions better prepared. And sophisticated web-based tracking techniques ensure Palmer has easy access to the hard facts that the FSA needs to satisfy its competency requirements.

“By engaging staff more effectively at the knowledge acquisition stage of the learning process, we’re better able to incentivise them to attend the live practice and skills development sessions, which drive home the key learning points introduced over the internet,” says Palmer. “Web-based learning engages staff better at the start of the knowledge-acquisition process to minimise drop-off rates at face-to-face sessions and reap a better return on the training resources we have available to us.”

Maximising investments

As the financial services industry gears up for more new regulation and compliance issues in the months to come, Palmer is confident that the new flexibility she’s been able to bring to the learning process at N&P can stand up to the test. Insurance training is the next discipline to undergo a web-based makeover.

Reaping the reward

“In terms of training, the internet has come of age over the past three years,” says Palmer. “The high degree of interactivity and dynamism, combined with flexibility and manageable cost structure, means that web-based learning offers wider scope for knowledge acquisition than the classic text book or work sheet support tools ever could.

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