What does CPD mean to you? Do you consider CPD to be short-hand for post-qualification technical update courses?

Ahead of Accountex 2019 I referenced the wide range of free CPD that would again be available at this major annual event, now in it’s 8th year in London.

A couple of other commentators took me to task for failing to mention all of the skills focused talks, the workshops and all of the non-technical sessions.

Initially I felt that this betrayed the commentators’ limited understanding of our profession. But when I asked accountants I found that many of them also have an unnecessarily restricted view as to what constitutes CPD.

This is so wrong and yet, a tad more understandable after I checked the professional bodies’ websites. Some of them don’t spell things out as clearly as they might. The breadth of topics that constitute CPD is typically implied rather than made absolutely clear.

So let’s start with what I thought was pretty obvious. Continuing Professional Development. The clue is in the words themselves. There is no focus on technical updates.

The aim of CPD is for Accountants to continue their PROFESSIONAL development.

If we fail to DEVELOP we stagnate. If we only expand our technical knowledge and understanding we will not DEVELOP as a PROFESSIONAL.

What is Continuing Professional Development?

CPD is post-qualification work-related learning, which enables you to keep your technical skills, business skills, and industry knowledge up to date. It needs to be relevant to your current role, your individual objectives or your future career aspirations.

Any activity that helps you meet your development goals could count as CPD.

You are the best judge of how much CPD you need to do and which activities will be most beneficial in meeting your learning and development needs.

CPD should be proportionate and relevant to your role; there is no need to keep up to date with areas which are not relevant.  Indeed, this is why your technical updates need only address topics on which you advise clients. No one expects all accountants to be fully up to date and capable of advising across every tax topic under the sun.

What topics might be addressed by your CPD?

The list is almost endless. It certainly extends beyond the range of topics addressed by professional accountancy exams.

So, what might we add to the important objectives of keeping your technical knowledge up to date and broadening the areas of your technical knowledge?

I suggest you should also want to add the development and/or enhancement of skills that fall under these headings:

  • Managing – general and specific management related skills.
  • Ethics – improving your understanding of what is acceptable and what is not
  • Leading – if you have a team then you probably want to ensure that you are an effective leader.
  • Marketing – Unless you have other people to do this for you, you will need to build your understanding of marketing and promotional issues and learn to do as much as you need to do to promote your practice effectively – no and in the future.
  • Communication – one of the most important of all business skills is the ability to write (email) and speak effectively.
  • Pitching – Attracting prospective clients is one thing. You’ll want to go further and become good at building rapport, securing their interest, quoting agreeable fees and securing agreement to your fees and payment terms.
  • Minding – looking after client relationships and helping to upsell them where possible
  • Grinding – improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your client work.

A huge range of topics and skills fall under these headings. Many of them are, what I consider to be, Key Business Skills. That is, skills you will require in the future even if you have survived without them to date.

The world is changing. At the very least you will need to become better at attracting and retaining clients. You may also want to be better able to deliver )and get paid well) for a wider range of services – beyond pure compliance work.

What activities constitute CPD?

Traditional forms of CPD included attending seminars, courses and studying books and magazines.
These days most professional bodies recognise that different people learn best in different ways. So there are rarely any compulsory activities.
You may secure your CPD through several different channels. Any activity that helps you meet your development goals could count as CPD. This could include:

  • Coaching and mentoring/being mentored.
  • Committee work
  • Conferences and events
  • Courses and seminars
  • Delivering training and development.
  • Discussion forums and groups
  • Internal and external training courses.
  • Learning at work
  • Meetings with experts
  • Networking
  • Observation and feedback
  • Online articles
  • Online courses
  • Online training/e-learning.
  • Podcasts
  • Project work
  • Reading magazines, newspapers, journals and online material
  • Research
  • Secondments
  • Studying for relevant additional qualifications
  • Study of regulations, rules and standards
  • Technical briefings
  • Webinars
  • Work-based learning
  • Workshops with your peers

And just to be clear. My weekly Magic of Success emails, my blog posts, Successful Practice Programme, mentoring sessions and meetings of The Inner Circle all constitute qualifying CPD. Each contributes to my objectives of helping accountants to continue their professional development. You know. CPD 😉