Could robots be giving advice to super fund members post-QAR?

Michelle Levy quality of advice review super funds financial advice

20 September 2023
| By Laura Dew |
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The law “should not continue to assume that financial advice is being given by a person”, according to Michelle Levy, as she hints that advice from superannuation funds could be given by a digital advice tool.

Writing an op-ed for The Australian, Levy discussed the ‘phase 2’ proposals in the Quality of Advice Review (QAR) that will see super funds giving financial advice to their members in order to improve access to retirement income advice.

This is a recommendation in Levy’s final report, but she has since admitted the government has suggested implementing it “at a larger level” than she had originally envisaged. With super trustees already under pressure from the Retirement Income Covenant (RIC), she questioned the viability of giving funds yet more responsibilities.

The government is now considering how this can be provided by funds including if it can be given by staff who are not financial advisers. It is up to the discretion of the super fund if they want to actively offer financial advice.

Levy said she had heard concerns from financial advisers about funds giving advice from unqualified staff but said advice did not necessarily have to be given by a person, let alone a person with a financial planning degree.

“The licensee responsible for the advice – in phase 2, the trustees of the superannuation funds – is best placed to decide what training staff needs and how advice should be provided,” she wrote in the newspaper.

“In some cases, the nature of the advice may mean the advice should be given by a financial adviser. But in other cases, the nature of the advice may mean it can be given by a person who is trained to follow a script. Increasingly, advice might be given by a digital advice tool and not by a person.

“Even where a person is involved, they might be merely an intermediary between the client and the algorithm. In that case, a degree in psychology or social work might be more valuable than a degree in financial planning. In any case, in 2023 the law should not continue to assume that financial advice is given by a person.”

Paraplanners, who tend to have a lower level of financial qualifications than financial advisers, providing advice at super funds was not the answer, she said.

“I worry that prescribed education standards will create a sort of halfway house with teams of paraplanners providing financial advice to members of superannuation funds. That would not in my view be a good outcome,” she said.

She also pointed out a joint report by ASIC and APRA earlier this year has found super trustees are already struggling to assist members approaching retirement under the RIC. If a fund provided poor advice to a member, there could be a risk of a class action.

“There is a risk that they are not providing assistance if they do not provide advice or the right kind of advice, and there is a risk in providing advice,” she said.

“We have seen some very large remediations and a number of class actions against trustees relating to financial advice and, while I am not saying trustees will give poor advice (I expect in the main they will give good advice), there remains a risk and ultimately that risk might become a liability shared by members of the fund.”

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Submitted by Rob A on Wed, 2023-09-20 08:52

From the first day of the Royal Commission the outcome was always going to be that Industry Funds would be able to provide Financial Advice without having to meet any of the requirement of a Financial Adviser - no accountability or transparency whatsoever! Just flogging their own product with immunity. What a joke!

Submitted by Steve on Wed, 2023-09-20 09:27

Robots can deliver whatever they like, providing the funds receive completed Annual Consent Renewal Forms for the ongoing advice fees being charged to their member accounts. Or alternatively, remove ACRForms off retail advisers. Until this disparity is fixed, consumers will remain worse off.

Submitted by Pot on Wed, 2023-09-20 13:43

It will only be done by a robot if they are cheaper than an unqualified back packer in a call centre.

Submitted by Sam Jay on Sun, 2023-11-26 22:06

Might as well just look at reintroducing trail commissions for advice again. When looking at mortgage broking retaining commissions has grown this sector.
Could make advice more affordable again and maybe even help increase numbers and olmaybe a much quicker process fir the government to introduce.

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