The industry cannot afford to continue treating financial planning and advice services as an occupation entirely defined by market transactions, according to academics from Swinburne University.
The academics, Dr Chistina Neesham and Dr Reza Tajaddini said if some people knew more about financial planning than others, this did not give them a licence to take advantage of other people’s savings.
“There must be a social contract, and financial planning should be treated as a profession,” they said. “This means financial planning services are not just a way of trading knowledge: these services have higher aims and responsibilities too. They have a public interest to protect.”
The pair said that just as doctors were expected to contribute their expertise to the health of patients and the community, planners and advisers were also expected to engage their knowledge for securing the financial health of their clients’ investments and, ultimately, the financial health of the economy.
“Now more than ever, ethics is at the centre of financial planning education, laying the foundations for a strong culture of professionalism in the industry,” they said.
“Everything is falling into place for a strong and healthy ethics regime in Australia: we now have legislated standards, a government authority (FASEA) mandated to develop a professional code of ethics, and clear criteria for licensing financial planning services and practices through formal education.”
“Education plays a vital, central role in transforming financial planning into a true profession. Ethics should be embedded in all programs, from single units to postgraduate courses. It is essential that graduates are able to make ethical and responsible decisions that contribute to a sustainable society now and into the future, encouraged by experiential learning, creative problem solving and interactive teaching approaches.”
“Now more than ever, professional financial planners and advisors require advanced soft skills, such as interpersonal communication, decision making and conflict management. To be able to act with integrity and act in the clients’ best interest, while upholding the public interest, they need to first understand client priorities, develop empathy, and communicate effectively to solve problems and build trust.”
“Today’s universities play a crucial role by embracing ethics in their financial planning curriculum. This is a critical space where students learn how to live together, in mutual respect and harmony, with people who hold different (and even conflicting) values. Universities’ programs should engage students with industry and guide them towards building satisfying careers in the financial planning profession. High emphasis on ethics, people skills and interactive and practice oriented pedagogical approaches is more important now than ever.”