The financial planning industry will need to unite behind higher educational standards and ethics and reject the noisy dissenters if it is to become a profession, Mike Taylor writes.
As the members of the board of the new Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) go about the task of establishing and then staffing the new body, financial planning groups need to start coming to terms with the realities posed by the emergence of a new industry gatekeeper.
While it is too early to start discussing the fine detail of the new FASEA regime, what should already be apparent to licensees and their financial planners is that from 1 January 2024, permission to use the descriptor “financial planner” and “financial adviser” will be restricted to those who hold an appropriate educational qualification or a recognised equivalent.
That is why former Premium Wealth Management chief executive, Paul Harding-Davis was right when he told this month’s Money Management Fintech, Platforms and Wraps Conference on the Gold Coast that industry-wide adherence to the educational standards specified by the FASEA would be crucial to turning financial planning into a profession.
He said the industry needed to move to a professional model without dealer groups appointing advisers.
“I think dealer groups should get together and say they’ll never appoint an adviser unless they get a certificate of practice from the FPA [Financial Planning Association], AFA [Association of Financial Advisers], etc,” he said. “We could move to a professional model in that sense.”
Harding-Davis’ comments point not to the situation which exists now or which will evolve through 2018 but to the situation which will likely eventuate beyond 2020 as increasing numbers of appropriately-educated and qualified planners enter the industry and as the necessary limits to grandfathering hasten the exit of others.
The new requirements will commence on 1 January 2019. From this date, new advisers will be required to hold a relevant degree before they are eligible to commence a supervision year and to sit the exam. Existing advisers will have two years, until 1 January 2021, to pass the exam and five years, until 1 January 2024, to reach a standard equivalent to a degree. The Code of Ethics will commence on 1 January 2020, with all advisers being required to adhere to the code from that day forward.
It is in this situation that it will not only fall to groups such as the FPA and the AFA to help with policing educational standards, but to dealer group heads and licensees to ensure that planners working within their businesses meet the necessary requirements.
In such an environment, the financial planning industry could justly point to its equivalence with the legal and accounting sectors and lay claim to being a profession.
However, to arrive at this point, the industry will need to do more than just follow the guidelines which eventually emanate from the FASEA. With the backing of the regulator, it will need to guard against a dilution of standards resulting from the expedient politicking of lesser industry groups and ensure uniformity of approach to the maintenance of the new standard.
The FASEA can only lay down the new educational and ethical standards – it will be up to industry groups and licensees to ensure they are not undermined – something which will undoubtedly give rise to disagreements and the possibility of break-aways.
In the end, unanimity of purpose will be crucial to proving financial planning has become a profession.