The Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) owes it to the financial planning industry to ensure that its next round of communication regarding education pathways for financial advisers is clear and unequivocal.
Bluntly, FASEA is perhaps the most important element in defining the future of the Australian financial planning industry yet it has had a less than stellar beginning with its efforts at communication, up to now, having created more confusion than clarity.
Indeed, events over the past eight months would seem to have justified the Association of Financial Advisers’ (AFAs’) contention that FASEA may have already lost the hearts and minds of financial planners, particularly those older planners hungry for clear detail around what they must do and what further education they must undertake to remain in the industry.
The Government’s objective in establishing FASEA was laudable but, if she has not done so already, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, needs to have a conversation with FASEA’s chair, Catherine Walter, to determine whether the body is on track with respect to meeting the Government’s legislative objectives. Doubtless, O’Dwyer received an objective explanation for the departure of FASEA’s first chief executive, Deen Sanders.
On paper, the composition of the FASEA board suggests it should be more than capable of delivering on the objectives outlined by the Government when the underlying legislation was introduced to the Parliament. It is comprised of financial planning, superannuation, legal and tertiary education representatives, but this has not yet translated to clear messaging.
Having completed its current consultative round and with a new chief executive in place, FASEA now has an opportunity to take on board the submissions of the major stakeholders and translate them into a workable blueprint capable of seeing the financial planning industry become a profession with appropriate academic underpinnings.
However, none of that will be achieved in the absence of some genuine pragmatism with respect to accommodating and recognising, to a greater or lesser extent, the wide range of qualifications held by existing financial planners.
Putting aside the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA’s) somewhat self-interested insistence on recognition of elements of its Certified Financial Planner designation, the organisation has made some valid points about why FASEA’s regime currently fails to recognise some advice-specific qualifications whilst recognising others which are non-specific.
At the core of FASEA’s challenge is to focus on driving an appropriate outcome for the financial planning industry and consumers. It should not be about protecting the interests of the Government of the day. Nor should it be about filling the coffers of the tertiary institutions.
To achieve its objectives, FASEA has to ensure its processes are made more transparent and that its decisions are clearly communicated to those planners whose future livelihoods depend on the outcome. To do otherwise risks not only losing the hearts and minds of financial planners, but also prompting the exit of up to 8,000 planners.