You can’t say there isn’t choice – there are now 53 bachelor or higher degrees and 30 bridging courses approved by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA).
For undergraduate bachelor’s degrees there are 26 available around the country, as well as 16 graduate diplomas and 11 master’s degrees.
Including an additional 66 historical degrees, there have now been 150 courses approved by FASEA.
New entrants into the industry must hold a tertiary qualification, have passed the FASEA exam, complete a professional year, and comply with continuing professional development (CPD) requirements from the start of this year.
On 30 August, it was announced by Senator Jane Hume, Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Services technology, the deadlines had been extended following joint lobbying by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA). This was a significant move as advisers had previously been under stress to meet the previous deadlines in time.
For existing advisers, their deadline to have passed the exam was extended by one year to 1 January, 2022 and the deadline to have received tertiary qualification was extended by two years to 1 January, 2026.
FPA chief executive, Dante De Gori, said: “We are pleased that Minister Hume has listened to the feedback from our members and been willing to work with the FPA and AFA jointly to deliver a better outcome for all financial planners and their clients”.
The next exams are on 19-23 September with registration having closed before the end of August, but registrations were still open until 8 November, 2019 for the 5-9 December, 2019 exam.
The results of the inaugural exam held on 20-24 June, 2019, saw a pass rate of 90%, with 579 advisers across the country having sat the exam.
There are numerous preparation courses available, including the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA’s) Return To Learn, Kaplan’s FASEA exam workshop, TAL’s Risk
Academy Masterclass, Cram 4 Exam, as well as FASEA’s own exam preparation guide.
One of the major issue advisers face was the cost of taking up the required study, given that tertiary qualification costs easily run well into five figures.
Checking with prospective institutions what recognised prior learning (RPL) could be accepted would reduce costs, as well as enquiring about any scholarships available.
The most common method of university education fee payment was via the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) which is available for students studying in a Commonwealth Supported Place.
If you were ineligible for HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP was available typically for private institutions and postgraduate study at public institutions.
Mark Olynyk, program director in financial planning at Deakin University, said there were options available to soften the financial blow.
“FEE-HELP is like the HECS scheme – the Federal Government covers your tuition fees as a loan, which you pay back through tax once you reach a taxable income threshold,” Olynyk said.
“To check eligibility see the Federal Government’s Study Assist website, if you aren’t able to defer tuition fees using FEE-HELP, you can also opt to pay your fees in instalments.”
Olynyk said in-house financing from your organisation may also be an option worth checking.
“Employers appreciate staff who demonstrate a keenness to learn more and take on challenges, you should approach your supervisor about financial or in-kind support for your postgraduate study,” Olynyk said.
You might also be able to claim it for tax purposes, but it was important to check with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) or a tax agent.
“Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim education costs on tax. Other expenses associated with study, such as books, internet and childcare, may also be claimable,” Olynyk said.
De Gori said the organisation had worked hard this year to set up programs to support people struggling to cope with the mental challenges.
“FPA Wellbeing is a free comprehensive health and wellbeing program providing confidential support by qualified counsellors and psychologists for FPA members,” De Gori said.
“We’re keenly aware of the toll these higher standards are taking on our FPA members, and the profession as a whole.
“We wholeheartedly believe the destination will be worth it, but not at any cost.
“It’s not easy going back to study when you’re running a business, a family, and volunteering in your community.”
The FPA had also recommended FASEA settle its decisions on RPL for all outstanding professional certifications, and reconsider providing credit for experience and training through CPD.
“Just in case petitions like ours and from other leaders across the financial services ecosystem are not heeded, we’re urging all financial planners to be ready,” De Gori said.
Phil Anderson, AFA general manager for policy and professionalism, said they had hoped the completion of the new education requirements would give advisers the opportunity to specialise and pursue study in a particular area.
“This might have been possible if FASEA had agreed to graduate diplomas with a limited core subject requirement and then a range of elective options,” Anderson said.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case and FASEA has set a requirement for 11 core knowledge areas, which higher education providers have been forced to fit into an eight subject Graduate Diploma.
“There is therefore not much flexibility in terms of what you can study now, which has caused a lot of frustration for many advisers who do not wish to study in areas that are not relevant to their area of practice and expertise.
“That said, we still think it’s important to take into account the type of financial advice work you want to do and the type of clients you want to work with when deciding on your education pathway.”