Disciplinary action will get accountants moving

The slow take-up of the licensing regime by accountants who advise on self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF) will continue until there is disciplinary action by the corporate regulator or other regulatory bodies.

Such is the view of Melbourne financial planning firm, PF Private Wealth managing director, Terry Powell, who made the comment in a whitepaper released by Certainty Advice Group.

"Some accountants are just ignoring it, and will continue to operate the way they always have," he said.

The whitepaper, titled "Crossing the Divide: Financial Advisory, Accounting, and the SMSF Opportunity", said accountants' reluctance to embrace the licensing regime could be driven by apathy, indecisiveness, or being busy with tax work, but said they need to think more strategically about the matter.

It quoted The Wealth Designers' principal wealth adviser, Travis Martin, who said it would be a steep learning curve for accountants' as they were accustomed to diametrically different compliance regimes from planners.

"From the application process to the SOA (statement of advice) production process and the compliance regime, accountants have found themselves very much handcuffed," Martin said.

"It doesn't surprise me that so many of them have been hesitant to apply for AFS licences. In terms of how to regulate this it's going to be a massive learning experience for accountants, for their relationships with advisers, and for ASIC."

Martin also said the notion of disputes arose from issues of conflicted advice models evident in vertically integrated systems, which "rightly" damaged the financial planning industry.

"We just don't see disputes in our world because we don't have any of the industry's incentive barriers affecting our advice. Like the medical profession we seek to collaborate and find solutions that work for the client, the accountant and our firm".

Finbiz Advisers' principal adviser, Annette Pulbrook, said accountants and planners who were stuck in old advice habits would fall behind, and said disputes between the professions arose from financial product-based firms that were being commoditised.

"Those financial planning or accounting firms fighting over the same clients are destined for a frustrating future. The rising level of professionalism will overwhelm them if they really believe their competition is one another," she said.

The whitepaper said the industry had to move past the notion that accountants and financial planners were entangled in "territorial squabble", and should transition from technical and transactional skills to "soft skills".

Clients would then demand deeper advice relationships than just insurance, investment, and tax return services.

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