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 the SILENT KILLER May 2011 | iContact

Most people think heart disease can put an end to dreams. Not so. In our industry there's another disease that can stop dreams, create chaos, disrupt progress and generally destabilize a smooth running operation.


What is it you ask? IGNORANCE. However, not what most persons think ignorance means, but the true definition of the term:  lack of knowledge, information, or education.  

Though we wish to educate everyone in our industry the reality is that it's a difficult and exhaustive task. Not because we can't, but because financial firms have other pressing priorities. That's why Smarten Up Insitute exists. It combats this disease with excellent courses the industry needs to help eradicate it.


Most of the firms in the financial industry are very busy doing what they're supposed to be doing....managing their customer's money. That's their business focus - and rightly so. It’s been a tough few years and they’re supposed to be diligent and excellent in their core business dealings.


So how do we teach the professionals in the back office, IT and operations that cry out for more information? For more direction? For more knowledge? For an end to the disease? 


There are a number of methods that have been explored by various firms for teaching back office personnel. Let’s explore the options and review their positive and negative points.


The  in-house approach


Very commendable but fails more often than succeeds.


Here’s how this method works.  First...get someone (or two) in a firm that understands Operations (pretty well actually).  Then - get them to lead multiple sessions (or one) to everyone in the firm (difficult!).


Most times the persons teaching these in-house 'specialized' classes typically have full time jobs, they have neither the time nor the instructional expertise and methods needed to lead a class filled with persons who are ‘prompted’ to attend.  There may also be discomfort as the instructor may be a senior member of the firm which might make the student more uncomfortable participating - they may not wish to display their ‘ignorance’ on a particular subject before a superior. 


The result tends to be typical in this scenario:  

In profitable times the firms are focused on their core business - the financial/securities business and managing money for their clients.  Educating staff takes a lesser priority - naturally so. 

In not so profitable times, the initiative is 'axed'.  It’s regarded as costly and  non-essential during difficult fiscal periods – again naturally so. 


The One Day Seminar method


This is a whoopdydoodlydo method (amongst other terms).


Although senior specialists get some benefit from focused and detailed sessions on more challenging subjects (though more than 1 one day module has proven the most beneficial).  The truth is that a 5 hour seminar simply cannot provide the explanatory depth of any concept to a generalist that has to ultimately understand complex business processes or systems processes today’s industry deals with. 


We have a myriad of these short burst educative sessions everywhere and unfortunately they don't overcome the ignorance disease at all. In fact, in educative circles they are also known as 'premature ejaculation' seminars. No further explanation required. 


The 'Buddy System' approach


Typically a firm identifies 'SME's' (for non Project Managers that's the acronym for Subject Matter Experts) and appends them to 'newbies' (new to the industry or firm) or ‘firmies' (persons who have been with a firm for a number of years and may need to update their industry knowledge in a specific area).


Knowledge transfer is the goal here.


Of course, having been a SME, and also still considered a SME, I understand immediately why this is not fully successful.


The SME is working, going to meetings, trying to get their daily tasks completed. They’re doing what everyone does…they’re trying get on with their jobs and earn a living.  Now add to that the stress and requirement of having to teach. 


Point #1 – not everyone can teach.

Point #2 – not everyone wants to teach.

Point #3 – not everyone likes sharing.

Point #4 – the SME may not want to give away their hard earned knowledge. They may feel threatened by doing so. Petty, but true none the less.


It's not a truly successful approach to overcoming the silent killer. 



* This method is not to be confused with a Mentor Practice. Mentors agree and encourage a focused approach in directing a keen individual to gain an appreciation of the requirements necessary to reach a career objective that supersedes the one they are in presently. It is an admirable endeavor by rare and special individuals that give of their time and expertise and to be truly respected. 



So we come back to our premise:  how do we combat IGNORANCE?


How do we teach in-depth concepts? How do we instill a need for inspiring passion to understand the new world that is filled with so much complexity in product, technology, compliance, geography, regulation, and understand the nuance of the emotional intelligence tied to making investment decisions and all the knowledge required surrounding this very fundamental act? And the crux of this industry. 


The OUTSOURCING Education method


This has been shown to work very well. Outsource your education requirements to firms whose core competency is education. Their business is solely and completely focused on overcoming ignorance.


Outsourcing to people that understand that pedagogical practice is not to be undermined, but admired.


But there are points to consider.  Do these firms have or understand the focus of the industry? Do they have the best instructors that truly ‘know’ the industry? 


By outsourcing your education needs, you demonstrate your respect for an ‘expertise practice’.  It is this best practice approach that allows the education provider to lend their expertise in a focused and concentrated method so that everyone in the industry learns the value of today's lesson in the classroom.


To eradicate ignorance the instructor must understand what has to replace it, and knows the practice and methods to successfullly get there.


The winning result for the educator and the industry?

By penalizing the folks who are keeping Canada’s financial firms healthy and working on a day-to-day basis, we jeopardize our ability to remain a viable global player. The disease spreads.

The only way to ensure that as our financial markets become increasingly complex, we have the properly educated technical and operational/administrative experts we need not only to keep the systems going but to keep the business operations running smoothly as well is to provide an outsourcing solution.  The clear, logical, sound solution to IGNORANCE - the silent killer. 


Laurie M. Clark, President and CEO, Smarten Up Institute “quality education for the financial professional”


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