Most professional associations and regulators require members to adhere to a set of professional standards —usually including a clause on maintaining and updating knowledge. STEP has had rigorous requirements in this regard since the Society was formed in 1991, but since the majority of STEP members also answer to various regulators and professional bodies in their respective jurisdictions, why does STEP audit its members?
Like other international professional bodies, STEP must take great care to compare qualifications so that successful applicants in every country can be said to be equal. All professional bodies must then factor in how training and professional development have evolved over time. For example, a degree completed in 1989 may have lost some currency compared to the same degree (in title at least) completed in 2009, unless a graduate has supplemented their knowledge.
Assessing the capabilities of members shifts from assessing initial development, to continued development. STEP members work hard to gain initial qualifications and build their careers through further studies, so they deserve to have their status as a fully-qualified professional upheld.
Even more importantly, clients and their beneficiaries need to know that they can trust estate planning professionals. We are wary of a doctor who doesn’t keep up to date on the latest medical developments; why should it be any different if someone writes a will or sets up a trust without being aware of important new knowledge? How our possessions will be passed on is one of the more serious decisions we make in our lifetime, so the public tends to react strongly to any media coverage of negligence.
Auditing members’ learning, whether we call it Continuing Professional Development, Continuing Professional Education or anything else, is one way of helping our members maintain public confidence in the profession.
STEP Worldwide will begin its annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) audit, requesting records from 5% of members, in September. If you have any questions on the auditing process please feel free to contact me.