Guest comment: Modernising education to develop professional careers in pensions

The pensions industry, over the last few years, has undergone a number of changes. It has been impacted by advances in technology as well as disruptors that are changing the way pensions sector and related products are delivered.

Rising competition among financial institutions as well as the rapid growth of financial technology make it challenging to attract and retain talent. The pensions sector is not impervious to these challenges, and a by-product of these changes has meant more efficiencies and the merger of large organisations into even larger organisations creating a direct competition for space.

The pandemic has also forced us to realign our positions, change our cultures and restructure our ways of working. By its nature, this has created a widening ability gap that makes it more difficult for pensions sector firms to find and keep talent.

The pensions sector, like all sectors of the financial community, is impacted by a changing business and customer focus. Out of this change we see the need for company cultures to adapt to the needs of the ‘new normal’. We, and the world, are expecting our employees to be better trained, better informed, and additionally, keep that level of knowledge year on year and continuously improve.

When you build a culture where people embrace change and focus on continuous improvement, high performance is the result. And a high-performance culture helps to attract and retain top-performing talent. We can do this by:

· Supporting employee learning and development so that individuals can perform to their potential

· Setting the bar for high performance and leading by example

· Ensuring clear and frequent communication around important objectives

· Coaching individuals for performance improvement

· Accessing, utilising and using the most up to date information from across the sector

It’s clear that most of the required training will be job-focused, but pensions sector employees will also need training in soft skills. Communication, teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking, to name a few.

The PMI as an organisation already has an excellent reputation for delivering the standard qualifications required for the industry, and to become ‘digital by default’ we want to enhance that approach. The intent of the PMI has always been to provide a coherent and easily accessible range of educational and training products under one roof, with learners are at the centre of our delivery.

The same learners have to be supplemented by relevant, progressive and expandable choices through a range of different educational approaches and philosophies and in a more accessible format. This is why we have launched the PMI Academy.

Developing the academy formed part of our 2022 Vision started nearly 5 years ago. It has been an iterative process over the last 5 years, with new ideas, new attitudes, new people, and has meant we have kept coming back to the start. However, in the last two years we have developed more stability, a more forward-thinking approach, better ideas of delivery, and ironically, due to the pandemic, have had to better our approach to most things operational as we have had to hasten the approach to digital delivery to the sector.

Never at any point has a well-educated, professionally focused and fully informed pensions sector been more valuable to the stability of the country than now. A well functioning and well-regulated financial sector establishes the foundation for a strong, stable economy. It facilitates sustainable growth and job creation, improves living standards for all, and, by association, contributes to society wellbeing.

By providing a stronger company purpose for organisations that develops and empowers individuals, providing them with the opportunity to be both informed and educated, allow them to network and share best practices, we can increase the effectiveness of working for, and within, regulatory frameworks, structures, policies and practices.

The PMI Academy therefore has been established to directly promote this stronger, more effective pensions and financial knowledge around the world, in order to strengthen financial stability and improve access to pensions sector, as we hopefully move towards a licence to practice approach.

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