Like Columbus charting unknown waters before discovering the Americas, financial planners have been drifting in the unknown as they navigate the changes the industry is undergoing as it professionalises.
Help is needed and there are options out there for planners trying to discover the best solution to fulfil the education requirements.
MAKING A PLAN
Brian Knight, chief executive of Kaplan Professional, says that Kaplan is trying to understand what the professional and personal commitments are for planners and assess how ready they are to study at a post-graduate level.
“For the last 18 months or so, we’ve been working with licensees and advisers across the country and having one on one discussions on their experience,” Knight says.
“We try to give everyone a personalised plan, we don’t charge for that and we’ve been doing probably thousands of them over the last eighteen months.
“We work with the advisers to understand how many subjects they have to do, and when they should and can study.”
There are two main goals they give to planners: get your studies done, which they have until 2023 to do, and pass the exam by 2020.
“We recommend some pathways for them to do those things and so we work hard with them to make sure that they have a tailored plan,” Knight says.
Stephen Glenfield, the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) chief executive, says the body encourages advisers to review the available tools on the FASEA website.
They should also ensure they speak with their relevant licensees to ensure they know and meet the appropriate pathway to meet education standards.
“The Standards Authority has provided the Financial Adviser Examination Guide on its website to assist with preparing new and existing advisers for the exam,” Glenfield says.
“We encourage all advisers to review this along with the practice questions provided.”
Glenfield says a continuing professional development (CPD) logbook template is also available on the website to assist advisers with collecting and maintaining of evidence of their CPD activities.
There will also be options for planners who had received qualifications outside Australia that met the threshold for competency under the new system.
“The Standards Authority is also providing a foreign qualification assessment service for individuals who have obtained their qualifications outside Australia,” Glenfield says.
“Both existing advisers and new entrants to the industry can apply to have their foreign qualifications assessed to determine whether they meet the education standards.”
BEATING THOSE DEADLINES
Glenfield says the deadlines for the industry to meet all FASEA requirements are imposed by legislation.
“Recently, the Standards Authority announced a range of dates for advisers to select their own timing for sitting the exam component of the legislation, in order that they can meet the deadlines, based on their own unique circumstances, timing and geographical location,” Glenfield says.
“Advisers are encouraged in the first instance to speak to their licensee for guidance on the appropriate pathway for their individual circumstances.”
FASEA is also be planning to release an “Education Pathway” tool on their website.
“This will assist advisers (and licensees) in understanding the particular education pathway that best suits their own circumstances,” Glenfield says.
Knight says that since the deadlines have been legislated, it’s education providers’ job to help people meet them.
“The issue with the timelines and deadlines is they’re very much focused at the front end,” Knight says.
“Advisers have between one and eight subjects to do and they have until 2023, but they have to get an exam done early, which means they have to do some study,” Knight says.
“Our view is that we have to try and make sure they’re able to meet that exam scheduling.”
There are people who want to get it done early, which Kaplan is helping implement a realistic pathway for, but there are also people trying to delay it.
“Certainly, we understand there’s people who would like to get an extension on the exam,” Knight says.
“But in reality, if you just look at the whole timeline by 2023, you can meet that provided you have a real understanding and a clear pathway of what you want to do.”
Adrian Raftery, associate professor of the financial planning program at Deakin University, says that when the deadlines were first introduced, they were reasonable, however delays by FASEA had made them unreasonable.
“In April 2017 FASEA was created and at this stage we haven’t had the first exam, and yes, it will be at the end of this month, but the timing is horribly wrong,” Raftery says.
“The end and start of a new financial year is always busy for advisers and the opportunity where they could’ve sat exams between January and May has gone for the year.
“Worst case scenario, I think it needs to be extended six months or realistically even 12 months because of the preparation time required.”
Raftery says planners needed to be proactive in how they deal with the impending deadlines.
“Talk to your dealer group, look at the FASEA website, ideally talk to FASEA—but it’s incredibly difficult to do so,” Raftery says.
“Talk to the educators – most of them I know are quite willing to help.”
Raftery says this needs to be planned now and not left to the last minute, regardless of the specific situation they’re in.
“There will certainly be a large cohort leaving the industry, but even they need to start doing things themselves now and preparing businesses, training up their junior staff to take over.”
Kaplan offered workshops for the exam, which Knight says was important to help make planners thoroughly prepared.
“One of the things they shouldn’t rush into is just doing the exam straight away,” Knight says.
“We prepared a really thorough program for them and I think we’re the only ones in the market that have an exam we’ve actually built.
“It mirrors the FASEA exam in terms of the number of questions, timeline and exam conditions.”
WHAT TRAINING OPTIONS ARE THERE?
Deakin is aiming to cover most of the areas available in the market, by offering bridging courses, approved degrees, and a Master of Business Administration with a financial planning specialisation.
“We’ve tailored the graduate certificate of financial planning around the three bridging courses around the capstone subject that others will need to do as well,” Raftery says.
“We have an online CPD offering that’s out there in the market place.”
Deakin has also been running a series of free webinars which Deen Sanders, the inaugural chief executive of FASEA, has helped present. Sanders recently joined the university’s faculty as an adjunct professor.
“We will be running workshops to prepare advisers for the exam, we plan on doing that next year,” Raftery says.
“But we wanted to wait until we saw some paperwork that came out from FASEA a few weeks ago.”
Raftery believes that Deakin has a solution available to the marketplace of a high quality that will do its part of shaping the future of the profession.
“It’s not merely a box ticking exercise, it’s why we have recruited some of the best talents in our team to try and help the industry,” Raftery says.
As well as the contribution from Sanders, Deakin’s team included lecturers Marc Olynyk and Mike Kerry, Dr Campbell Heggen, and Professor of Practice Adam Steen.
“We believe we have one of the world’s emerging behavioural finance academics in Campbell Heggert who’s worked with a lot of people in North America who are experts in the field.”
Kaplan’s three bridging courses and the ethics subject are being purposefully built and they had also partnered with Deloitte and Deen Sanders.
“This is about giving the best content in the world, it would have been easy for us to just use the courses we had,” Knight says.
“But we decided to invest to give advisers something that’s actually going to be a benefit to them.
“We’ve made sure the prices of the course will be affordable, we also have invested heavily to not just give ordinary content.”
It’s not just traditional education providers offering assistance to advisers, either. Many industry players are seeking to get in on the action and offer a lending hand to their clients or colleagues who may be struggling with the new requirements.
Leading insurer TAL, for example, recently ran a training session for advisers on the Code of Ethics that the FASEA regime is imposing, as well as on the exam and education requirements. Almost 500 advisers attended the first session, showing the need in the industry for guidance on the reforms.
“Currently, there are very few resources available to support financial advisers in understanding the code of ethics and how it applies to their day-to-day business dealings and customer interactions,” TAL head of licensees and partnerships, Beau Riley, said after the first session.
“Through our TAL Risk Academy ethics course, we want to equip advisers with a solid understanding of the scope of the code of ethics and the procedures they need to put in place to ensure they adhere to the code and demonstrate their adherence to others.”
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Kaplan is one of the many institutions offering both online and face-to-face lectures, one of the ways it aims to serve all situations.
“If you want to go to a face-to-face lecture you can, but there are webinars in every subject and recorded lectures for those who don’t want to do them,” Knight says.
“We have our bridging courses that are being built specifically for FASEA, and we have personalised and one-on-one adviser consultations, pathways and study plans.”
Given there will be people in the industry who have not studied for a long time, if at all, Kaplan has planned assistance for people who need help getting back into study-mode.
“From things like how to take notes, prepare for exams, how to actually do an assignment, referencing, and then we run tutor hours and we have advisers to help them,” Knight says.
Kaplan has courses designed to be done completely online, to give people flexibility to do it in their own time and at their own pace.
To increase flexibility, they offer programs during six study periods in a year, as opposed to the traditional university semester or trimester models.
“There are study groups people are assigned so they can work in groups and we have tutors assigned to them,” Knight says.
“They can contact the tutor and get advice on any question they’re struggling with, we have discussion forums, so that offers a full experience designed to assist.”