Sectoral Qualifications Framework for BANKING (SQFB)

BanksBanks: we look forward to implementation of our framework
“Banks have seized the opportunity presented by development of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Banking and we are now hungry for more and look forward to its implementation,” admits Mariola Szymańska-Koszczyc of the Warsaw Banking Institute, the substantive manager of the SQFB project. It was the first sectoral framework designed in Poland – for the banking sector, whose community was enthusiastically contributing to its creation. The framework will become an element of the Polish and the European Qualifications Framework, which will enormously enhance mobility on this labour market.

The Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Banking (SQFB) features five levels – Levels 3 to 7 of the Polish Qualifications Framework, described in terms of standard PQF categories of knowledge, skills and social competence. It also includes profiles of competence holders and types of positions.

Its development covered analyses of several areas and as many as 67 positions related to: customer service and consulting, the SME sector, corporations, risk (credit risk and other risks, risk and efficiency control), dealing operations, internal audit, compliance, security (including IT), marketing and macroeconomics.


Benefits for banks and customers

Authors of the framework assess that the SQFB has made qualifications in their sector:
  • relevant to people, organisations and the labour market, or market-making. They reflect key business processes and professional roles in the sector and create a reference to job positions and regulations in force;
  • comprehensible (transparent). They clearly describe the knowledge, skills and behavioursof a diploma or certificate holder in his/her professional role. The framework helps plan training paths and makes a contribution to the employee appraisal scheme. It makes requirements for employees and formal systems for awarding qualifications open and transparent;
  • reliable, thanks to the detailed description of required competence and assurance of its objective verification;
  • flexible, effective and accessible, because they show how to acquire competence by following different paths of formal, non-formal or informal education (experience). As a result, everyone is able to match their time, workload and funds to the needs and capacities of people and organisations;
  • motivating for lifelong learning. They reinforce and reward continuous professional development aimed at enhancement of qualifications. In addition, they identify clear career and education paths for greater competitive edge of the sector and employee mobility. The comparability of skills increases their value on the national and the European labour market.
  • universal, as qualifications will be known and used by people and organisations from all institutions, companies and countries.

The Framework offers benefits to all participants of the banking system. The banks will apply the Framework in recruitment of employees, identification of their career paths or salary grid development, which will mitigate the risk of mismatched recruitment and human resource management. Employees will be aware of standards they represent, they will realise what jobs they may look for and they will be willing to pursue lifelong learning, enhance their qualifications and maintain their employability. The banking system will benefit from supervision that will contribute to provision of reliable communication to the public about qualifications standards of the sector, which will increase its confidence level and stability. This communication will enable customers to make informed decisions about advisers and banks. Trade organisations will be able to develop their standards, while training companies will get an additional capacity to design training programmes and award certificates.

“Transparent qualifications are teamed up with the code of ethics and the need for continuing professional development. The professional certificate becomes a tool for communication between customers, employees, companies and market supervisors,” argues Mariola Szymańska-Koszczyc. “Customers know what qualifications are demonstrated by employees who support them. Employees have a clear picture of employers’ expectations, while companies are confident that investments in adequate employee qualifications will assure their compliance. Such vision is certainly worth pursuing,” she concludes.

The sector is looking forward to improvements

What will the SQFB look like? Its requirements related to learning outcomes:
  • result mainly from business processes and refer to key professional profiles in the sector;
  • reflect key needs for qualifications in the sector;
  • complement universal PQF descriptors with streamlined sectoral descriptions;
  • are grouped within level descriptors to create the balance between the level of detail (a specific feature of the sector) and generalisation (structuring qualifications).A number of indicators for the sectoral framework were also adopted:
  • outlining specific, key areas of competence for the sector which characterise qualificationsin the banking sector and differentiate them from qualifications in other sectors;
  • drawing distinctions in terms of the specific profile and importance of a given area;
  • being altogether representative for overall learning outcomes provided under qualificationsfor the banking sector;
  • focus (orientation) on five indicators: financial markets and macroeconomic framework; the process and the organisation of banking activities; the security and the supervision in the bank; the risk/return ratio;
“What matters most is that the banking sector has realised what benefits are offered by development of qualifications frameworks and has actively contributed to their creation. We are now waiting to have them implemented and applied, which will improve a number of issues,” argues the substantive project manager. “We are convinced that we have done everything that was possible at this stage and have done our best. Obviously, frameworks need to be continuously updated and adjusted, but first and foremost, we want our efforts to be actually applied in real life, because it’s worth it,” she adds.

They were perfectly prepared

The SQFB is not the pioneer qualifications development initiative of the Polish sector. The sectoral framework draws heavily on previous efforts. As early as in 1996, the Polish Bank Association teamed up with banking schools and the National Bank of Poland to introduce the Qualification Standards System in Polish Banking (QSSPB). In addition, deliverables of the project included qualifications for certified banking professionals in knowledge, skills and attitude categories, identification of rules applicable to the exam
and additional requirements validating acquired competence and entitling an individual to a professional diploma as well as description of higher level, specialised qualifications, e.g. for credit specialists.

In 2005, the Polish system was expanded with the European general banking certificate (European Foundation Certificate in Banking - ECB EFCB), implemented in line with recommendations of EBTN (European Banking and Financial Services Training Association) which associates key banking institutes in Europe. Three Polish organisations educating bankers were accredited to deliver exams: Gdańsk Academy of Banking, the International School of Banking and Finance and the Warsaw Banking Institute (WBI).
In subsequent years, the WBI created new professional certificates described in terms of learning outcomes, which supplement QSSPB certificates.

Poland’s first extended catalogue of validating measures for qualifications from the banking sector includes:
  • a general banking ECB EFCB certificate (within EBTN and QSSPB)
  • a risk management certificate (WBI’s own)
  • a certificate in audit of financial institutions (WBI);
  • a financial market dealer certificate (WBI in association with ACI Polska);
  • a bank controlling certificate (WBI);
  • a certificate of the banking adviser to small and medium enterprises – SME (WBI);
  • three financial consulting certificates based on EFPA (European Financial Planning Association) standard.
The Warsaw Banking Institute continued to expand the system, and eventually, in relation to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), coordinated the FIRST project, whose deliverables included the so-called Translator, i.e. description of eight sectoral qualifications levels in terms of knowledge, skills and competence. The WBI wanted efforts on development of sectoral qualifications frameworks for the industry to benefit from Translator.

The Institute provides EFPA financial consultant as the raw model for the certificate described in terms of learning outcomes aligned to EQF and PQF principles. The WBI offers training courses for applicants for the certificate. Exams are conducted by the Foundation for Financial Consulting Standards which represents EFPA in Poland. The certificate validates complex, specialist knowledge of financial markets and products, the understanding of the consulting process, the skills essential to conduct an autonomous diagnosis of customer needs, his or her risk profile and designing a financial solution fine-tuned to his or her needs.

It requires accountability for one’s decisions as well as continued update of acquired competence and autonomy in collaboration with the customer. The description of EFPA standard is supplemented with
a number of key requirements which must be met in order to obtain the certificate:
  • professional experience in the role of the financial consultant;
  • completion of an accredited training programme;
  • passing a written knowledge and skills exam, which lasts five hours (multiple choice testand customer’s case study);
  • signature of EFPA’s Code of Ethics, which provides: reliability, transparency, primacy of customer’s interest, accountability, continuous professional development, professionalism;
  • participation in an annual report within EFPA’s Continuous Professional Development Programme (20 credits a year are required);
The Continuous Professional Development Programme marks the difference of EFA EFPA’s certificate on the Polish and international market. First certificates were issued to Polish financial advisers in 2008. Today, they are held by more than 300 professionals in Poland and 15,000 in Europe.

“At this stage, we have created no hard qualification names in our Sectoral Qualifications Framework, although some certificates have recommendations for specific levels. For example, a certified banking professional has the recommendation for Level 4 of the European Qualifications Framework, while a certified EFPA EFA financial adviser has a recommendation for Level 6 of the EQF,” adds Mariola Szymańska-Koszczyc.

She believes that implementation of the Polish Qualifications Framework is a chance that the Polish financial services sector is able to, should and wants to seize. “It’s important to showcase qualification-related achievements of the sector and introduce its key elements into the PQF,” she stresses. “The risk is the inherent feature of the financial services sector. Its stable operations require capital, not only the financial one, but also human and intellectual capital. Transparent, reliably confirmed and continuously updated qualifications are central in building the sector’s credibility and constitute its vital intangible assets. It’s a time challenge and a commitment to the future,” she adds.

Contributors to the SQFB development project included representatives of 17 commercial banks, one state-owned bank, two associations of cooperative banks, one trade organisation, three training companies, seven universities and the Office of the Polish Financial Supervision Authority. The Polish Bank Association was the partner of the project.

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