Tag Archive | News

Major international honour for CII’s RDR Gap Fill Tool

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) RDR Qualification Gap Fill Tool has received international recognition by winning a prestigious 2012 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Bronze Award.

The Award, for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Compliance Training, was presented to Unicorn, who designed and built the Gap Fill Tool to help financial advisers meet the huge challenge of the FSA’s Retail Distribution Review ahead of the 31 December 2012 deadline.


The RDR is the largest regulatory initiative in the UK in 30 years, to enhance consumer confidence in the UK retail investment market. It has major learning and development implications for individuals who advise on retail investment products.

To ensure RDR compliance and to continue practising from 1 January 2013 all financial advisers must achieve the required standards and been issued with a Statement of Professional Statement (SPS) certification.

Launched free to CII members in August 2010, the tool has enabled members to identify where knowledge gaps exist, and manage the process for filling gaps and attaining their SPS. A remarkable 85% of advisers studying for their SPS are doing so through CII. By the end of 2012 over 25,000 adviser members have used use the tool, and 90% had completed their gap fill and submitted their records for verification.

Steve Aspinall, Head of Corporate Development, CII, said: “This award is testament to the robustness and effectiveness of the Qualification Gap Fill Tool and CII Financial ASSESS in helping guide our advisers through what has been a very turbulent and uncertain period for the financial advice industry.

“With Unicorn, we delivered a unique, engaging and practical online professional development experience that’s assisted firms and advisers in meeting the immediate compliance requirements of the RDR, and it continues to address the issue of ongoing competence in line with the FSA wish for a more principles-based regulatory approach.”

Brandon Hall Group is the pre-eminent research and analyst organization focused on developing research driven solutions to drive organisational performance.

All entries were evaluated by a panel of independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group Senior Analysts and Executive Leadership based upon criteria including what the product’s breakthrough innovation was, what makes the product unique and how it differs from any competing products, what problem the product solves/need addresses and the benefits customers can expect as a result of using this product.

Unicorn opens New York office

As our client base in the US grows and our relationship with key partners becomes global, we are supporting this growth with a permanent presence in the US. The Unicorn US operation will be led by two new colleagues Mike Farmer and Lance Krubner.

Mike will be responsible for sales and Lance will lead the content development projects. Both are very experienced in e-learning and in the US financial sector. Darby Farmer will also be joining the team on a part time basis providing office support. We are delighted to welcome them to the Unicorn team.

Unicorn Training Unleashing Talent at 2011 Learning Technologies

Unleashing talent in financial services is the key focus for Unicorn Training as the leading eLearning solutions provider gears up for the 2011 Learning Technologies Exhibition Show at Olympia 2 next week (26 -27 January).

Unicorn, which has supported the UK’s financial services industry through more than 21 years of evolution, will be showcasing the latest innovative off-the-shelf and bespoke eLearning developed for leading industry names, including Tesco Bank, VolksWagen Financial Services and Bank of New York Mellon

Plus Unicorn will demonstrate how the unique thinking behind its SkillsServe LMS can help firms manage all their learning and development – both in-house and regulatory – through one flexible, dynamic online portal.

Neill McWilliams, Unicorn Training MD, said: “We are really looking forward to showing why the LMS is alive and well in the financial services sector, where compliance, professionalism and job-related CPD are increasingly core, and demonstrating why even the driest subjects can be turned into highly interactive, enjoyable learning experiences.

“Engagement lies at the heart of achievement so we are passionate about designing creative, easy-to-follow eLearning experiences that really educate and enlighten.”

Unicorn will also be launching its redesigned website – http://www.unicorntraining.com – at the show. Recognising the learning and development needs of each financial industry sector are unique, unicorntraining.com focuses on what Unicorn can do for the six specific industry sectors of Banks and Investment Firms, Mortgages and Building Societies, Insurance, Financial Services, Procurement and Legal, bucking the trend of company websites which focus on promoting product lines.

There is also the chance for delegates to win a “Flip” USB camera in Unicorn’s free prize draw.

Unicorn Training can be found at Stand 44 at Learning Technologies. We look forward to seeing you there.

The LMS is dead …. oh no, it isn’t

As Mark Twain once remarked “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”.

A current hot topic in the industry is the claim that “The LMS is dead”.

The main argument appears to be that the days of central control of learning are over as we are all part of the cloud / crowd / social network and that we learn by exploring and communing on the Web.

Back in the real world, my own perception is that (at least in our sectors), the need for companies to ensure that their staff are competent and comply with regulations and legislation is increasing, and that our customers are more concerned than ever to manage this centrally to ensure that training is completed consistently and that they can monitor and report on this.

Here’s a link to a more comprehensive case for the defence.


Lend me your ears! Tips for effective use of audio in eLearning

Audio can add an extra dimension to your courseware and increase both user engagement and retention. But like every other aspect of instructional design, it needs skill to do it well. Here are a few tips from Unicorn’s experience.

Quality matters
The YouTube generation has made us remarkably tolerant of low quality video, but this is not the case with audio. Poor quality audio can be worse than none at all.

Use professionals
There will be occasions where you want the genuine voices of colleagues, or an inspirational opening address from the CEO. But where you are asking the speaker to play a role, professional actors will give you a far better outcome. The voice of a professional can add depth, richness and character to your course. They are not expensive and even when budgets are tight, this is not the place to economise.

Mix it up
Try using more than one audio character. If your content doesn’t lend itself to dialogue and scenarios, you can still add variety with different experts, or “the man or woman in the street”. Use your imagination.

Shhh! Recording in process
Background sounds are fine if they are planned and not intrusive – bird song, traffic noise or office background sounds can all add to the sense of realism. But unplanned footsteps, slamming doors and pinging microwaves can ruin a recording. The best solution is to use a professional studio, but if the budget or timescales don’t allow, then here’s a tip, stick a decent directional mike in your laptop and do the recording in your car for a sound proofed temporary studio.

A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks
People don’t speak the way they write. So when writing an audio script you will usually want a more informal and “human” tone. Don’t ask the narrator to read out bullet lists. Don’t let your narrator lecture the user or talk down to them and avoid management speak. A friendly tone will typically be the aim.

In one ear and out the other
There is a temptation, particularly if you are trying to fit a lot of content into a 30 minute elearning course, to give the narrator more to say just to keep the text off the screen. But beware, audio takes control of the pace of the course away from the learner, and if the clips are too long or too many, the user will tune out.

Don’t just read what’s on the screen
While it is usually essential to give the user a text alternative to the audio, you should give them the choice of whether to view the text, and at what pace to read it.

Ding dong
Sound effects are not much used in elearning but can be very effective. Note how sound effects are used in video games to give auditory clues. There are many familiar sounds all around us that can be a quick and even amusing alternative to narration or text – an incoming email, ringing phone, knock on a door, alarm clock, the gentle thwack of leather on willow …… but, don’t overdo it!

Screen reading software is largely used as an accessibility tool, but can have other uses. For example, if your content is going to change frequently, then using screen reader software to create your audio can save you the trouble of return trips to the studio. If the result sounds a bit like a robot, then why not make your narrator a robot?

New mortgage industry guide adds focus to professionalism drive

‘Working Together’ – a new industry guide to lender and intermediary accountabilities and responsibilities in mortgage sales and servicing – has once again reiterated the paramount need for mortgage sector employees to keep their knowledge and training fully up-to-date.

Jointly published by the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI), the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) and Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), Working Together, aims to increase transparency on how lenders and intermediaries work together on mortgage sales and administration to promote enhanced industry professionalism and boost market confidence.

Covering all types of customers and applying to any business regulated by the MCOBS and TCF, Working Together is the latest rallying call to the industry to embrace uniform high-quality business practices driven by the FSA’s Mortgage Market Review.

With significant changes continuing to sweep through the property world, our Mortgage Essentials suite of eLearning enables all employees to stay on top of the latest in mortgage regulation.

Covering critical topics including MCOB, Arrears and Possessions, Approved Persons, BCOBS for Building Societies, Complaints, Data Protection, Information Security, Senior Management Arrangements, Systems and Controls, Treating Customers Fairly and Financial Crime, Mortgage Essentials is produced with, and regularly updated by, industry and subject experts.

It combines the fresh, creative use of technology, to inject life into a variety of topics and learning materials, delivering innovative and interactive eLearning that puts professionalism at the heart of employee development.

To find out more about Mortgage Essentials contact kieran.brown@unicorntraining.com or call 0845 130 5138.

View ‘Working Together’ here.

How to make eLearning fun and effective.

This TED video brilliantly makes the case that people learn best by having to think, explore and discover.

Major shake-up will see end of FSA

Compliance Resource Network – Breaking News

Summary of the Osborne Mansion House Speech detailing the break-up of the FSA and the planned changes

In his first Mansion House Speech in the City of London last night (16 June 2010), the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, set out his plans for a major shake-up to the way in which the financial system is regulated in the UK.

He told his audience of bankers that at the heart of the financial crisis was a “rapid and unsustainable increase in debt that our macroeconomic and regulatory system utterly failed to identify let alone prevent.”
The abolition of the tripartite regime of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Bank of England and the Treasury will make way for the creation of a new prudential regulator, which will see the FSA cease to exist in its present form.

The new regulator, which will operate as a subsidiary of the Bank of England, will carry out the prudential regulation of financial firms, including banks, investment banks, building societies and insurance companies.

The Chancellor confirmed the creation of an independent Financial Policy Committee at the Bank, which will have responsibility for addressing macro issues that pose a threat to economic and financial stability.

The regulatory shake-up also includes the establishment of a powerful new Consumer Protection and Markets Authority; the purpose of which will be to regulate the conduct of every authorised financial firm providing services to consumers.

The new Authority will also be responsible for ensuring good conduct of business in the UK’s retail and wholesale financial services, and preserving the City’s reputation for transparency and efficiency, as well as its position as one of the world’s leading global financial centres.
The transition process for the proposed changes is due to be completed in 2012.

Highlighting the failings of the current system, the Chancellor commented that:

“The Bank of England was mandated to focus on consumer price inflation to the exclusion of other things. The Treasury saw its financial policy division drift into a backwater. The FSA became a narrow regulator, almost entirely focused on rules based regulation.”

He continued:
“No-one was controlling levels of debt, and when the crunch came no one knew who was in charge.”

Hector Sants, the FSA’s chief executive officer, who announced in February 2010 that he was stepping down this summer after three years at the helm, has agreed to remain at the FSA to oversee the transition and become the first new deputy governor and chief executive of the new prudential regulator.

The FSA’s chairman, Lord Turner, has welcomed the changes outlined in the Chancellor’s speech. He commented:

“The FSA now has the clarity of direction and timescale as well as the leadership that we need to meet the challenges ahead.

“I am delighted that Hector, who has done so much to transform the FSA during the past few years, has agreed to lead the transition to the new structure in 2012, and to become the first Chief Executive of the Prudential Authority and a Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.
“The crisis demonstrated the need for new regulatory approaches and more intense supervision, and the FSA has already implemented major change. But it also demonstrated the need to bridge the gap between macro-prudential policy and the supervision of individual firms. The Chancellor’s proposals for prudential regulation will enable us to do that, while building on the major changes we have made over the last few years. The timescale will enable us to manage the transition in a smooth and orderly way.”

On the subject of whether the Government should restrict or split the activities of banks, the Chancellor confirmed that the newly established Independent Commission on Banking, chaired by Sir John Vickers, would be tasked with this dilemma. The Commission will look at the structure of banking in the UK, the state of competition in the industry and how customers and taxpayers can be sure of the best deal. Thereafter, the Commission will form an opinion, and the Government will decide on the right course of action. Joining Sir John, the four other commissioners will be: Martin Taylor, Claire Spottiswoode, Martin Wolf and Bill Winters.
The Chancellor has set out his plans which represent a new settlement between the banks and the rest of society. Going forward, he is seeking, “A fairer settlement in which the banks support the people, instead of the people bailing out the banks.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s full speech can be viewed here.

This news update has been provided by Unicorn partners Wolters Kluwer Financial Services.

If you don’t already subscribe to WKFS Compliance Resource Network we would like to invite you to take a no-obligation trial of this valuable online service.

Success and sore feet on the Moonwalk

Unicorn’s Moonwalk team raises over £1,000 for breast cancer charity.

Five intrepid members of the Unicorn Bournemouth office completed the 26.2 mile Moonwalk this year and raised over £1,000 for charity.

Organised by breast cancer charity Walk the Walk, the Moonwalk is now a huge annual event, with over 17,000 participants walkng a marathon through the streets of London overnight.

Sesame Bankhall launches Unicorn gap fill tool

Unicorn Training has worked with Network Sesame Bankhall to launch an online tool to help advisers work out which qualifications they need to be ready for the retail distribution review (RDR).

Advisers can enter what qualifications and credits they already have into the Sesame Bankhall tool, which will outline what options they have to meet the RDR requirements.

The tool will also explain the difference between the various exams and help advisers choose the qualification which suits their preferred method of learning.

The drive for increased professional standards for advisers would be unaffected by question marks over the political situation and regulation, said Stephen Young, chief operating officer of Sesame Bankhall.

“To achieve the RDR qualification benchmark advisers first need to undertake a gap analysis to understand which of their existing qualifications count towards QCF Level 4 status. From there they can then plot the examination route that is right for them.”

The tool is particularly suitable for advisers working towards the Chartered Insurance Institute diploma qualification.