Media wrong to tar advisers with the one brush

22 May 2020

It is grossly unfair for the media and others to lump all financial planners into the same boat as the few who have been found to be corrupt or inadequate. 

That is the bottom line message of the principal of Tasmanian financial planning and accounting firm, Collins SBA, Jonathan Elliot who has written to the ABC complaining over a recent news headline which suggested financial planners were incapable of self-regulation and asked whether the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) might make a difference. 

In his letter, Elliot has taken issue with the ABC’s headline and approach. 

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“To group all financial planners into one dirty boat is grossly unfair and causes significant emotional distress to the thousands of financial planners, like myself, who only ever strive to recommend what is best for each individual client. To be frank, I am deeply offended and your indiscriminate kick to each and every financial planner hurts,” the letter said. 

“The poor culture and KPI-driven misconduct, as featured in the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, largely occurred within major financial institutions and yet few corporate executives or even the regulator have been held accountable,” he said. 

Elliot said that while he and his business supported the drive by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) towards more professionalism, the reality was that the industry was becoming overburdened with regulation and consequent cost. 

“I support the financial advice framework being strengthened, and I also concur with the FPA and AFA that parts of the code are indeed unworkable and that the current framework is excessively complex,” he said noting that the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology had acknowledged that “financial planners are tied up in knots with rules and regulations”.  

“Sadly, my business has disengaged numerous clients as a direct result of the additional compliance that has made providing service to some client segments unviable,” Elliot’s letter said. 

It said that Senator Hume’s government was responsible for implementing FASEA, “creating further rules to tie us up in knots with and despite the opaque process, overreach (conflicting with Corps Law) and Board members themselves being conflicted”. 

The letter said that, despite this, the ABC had seen fit to report what Elliott regarded as a self-serving and baseless assertion by FASEA chief executive, Stephen Glenfield, that “large swathes of that membership (FPA and AFA) will be in agreement with what we are doing”. 

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Thanks Mike, for voicing what the majority of planners are thinking. We’d all love to just be able to re-focus on looking after our clients.

yeah, the photo aptly describes how I feel most days. WTF, what now is my first thought.

and the worst offender has been ASIC, and now that advisers are leaving in droves, they wonder why and want to "work with us" forget about it

Congrats to Elliott on his letter. Absolutely nailed it. Baseless, idiologically driven nonsense is all we have seen from FASEA. They need to be called out. Glenfield had a chance to improve the public image of our profession, which is what FASEA was designed to do, but instead he used used the opportunity to degrade us. From my personal interactions with him, I can tell you he cares about what the government and media think of FASEA. Our best chance of chance of forcing change is to target them. A mortgage broker style ad campaign directly targeting FASEA's lack of consultation, board conflicts and the unworkable code could work.

Well done Jonathan. This has been a problem for a long time. Unfortunately too many so called "journalists" have exaggerated and misrepresented the behaviour of a minority of advisers. They have used cheap sensationalism to generate cheap content and bigger audiences. Adele Ferguson has been the prime offender, but Andrew Robertson from the ABC has also been repeatedly guilty of it. They use the same techniques of bias and prejudice as Alan Jones, but just target a different type of audience.

Adele actually started off with legitimate and balanced investigative journalism. But unfortunately the lure of big audiences that misrepresentation and hysterical sensationalism can deliver was too much to resist. She chose to degrade herself and her "profession", and in the end has done more harm to Australian financial services consumers than good.

Stephen Greenfield must live in some parallel universe !
His comments are self serving and couldn't be further from the truth.

Perhaps confirmation of that lies in the 5,025 advisers who have left the industry over the past 18 months and the 30 + reported suicides would be a fairer indication of the financial planning industry/profession acceptance on these draconian FASEA requirements.

Great work Jonathan. You have said what many of us have wanted to say, but unfortunately have not done so. We are all good at preaching to the converted on these sort of forums, but not so good at going public (presumably for fear of being targeted). Those of us that are passionate about what we do want financial planning to become a profession and respected, but I think its become blatantly obvious that FASEA will only cause the opposite of this to happen. You cannot have a standards body that is so opaque, incompetent and quite frankly a complete circus act and expect advisers to respect either the body or the standards they are requiring advisers to adhere to. Standard 12 of the Code requires us to uphold and promote the ethical standards of the profession and hold each other to account for the protection of the public interest. I think its more than clear that its time to hold FASEA to account in the public arena.

Speak for yourself. Many of us have been writing to Government ministers and FASEA. If you haven't been doing so, get on board. You might be surprised. Occasionally they read and even reply. We can't rely on our professional bodies. They are filled with lap dogs, who are using their position as a stepping stone, so they won't ruffle feathers even when our very existence is at threat. If we stay silent, the pollies will think we are ok and FASEA will think they are getting away with it. Write, write write, emails, letters...imagine if everyone who posts on here wrote a corresponding letter and sent it to Hume, Glenfield or their local minister & senator. One letter won't make a difference, but thousands of letters from thousands of different advisers that keep coming will get their attention. The exam delay proves they are aware of problems, so we must keep going and expose FASEA and ASIC for the damage they are doing to our great profession

Good points. I have actually been speaking to a Labor and Liberal Senator from Tasmania, who have actually taken the concerns seriously. My point was actually about going public (not just to Canberra) and highlighting the issues. I have had a number of clients and friends ask me about it and when I have explained the whole FASEA debacle to them, people cant believe it has been allowed to continue and what has evolved.

Most investors find good financial advice worthwhile despite the black sheep (as in any calling). Consumers hard done by the black sheep need protection through alerts. To decry such protection as 'being tarred with the same brush' ignores those who value advice are also extrapolating their good experience and repeating what Elliot complains about.
The right attitude is 'if the cap fits, wear it!'

So by your logic, all Muslims should be made to wear a "terrorist" cap?

I can't praise enough Elliot for standing up to ABC for all the honest financial planner who are looking after the interests of their clients. ABC, and many other media outlets, in my opinion, are notorious for headline grabbing comments which sometimes are immensely biased and one sided and lacking substance. It is certainly not an honest and informative journalism that it once used to be but rather a self serving industry in itself hiding behind freedom of speech banner.

For the past 6 months and the next 6 months we will disengage with 30% of our clients and 50% of the remaining clients fess significantly increase.
This justification is made with clients receiving weighty report annually that 90% of the time recommends no change in addition to broad based feel good questions about clients extended family and who they are as people so we have evidence we know our client.
The financial planning industry is already a profession and I believe the public at large see us as such already. So I am wondering what this extra navel gazing and regulation has to do other than move old planners on and deter new entrants to the industry.
Can the regulators please tell me if accountants, lawyers, or any other profession has their members document not only the recommendation but alternative recommendations (strategies & solutions), require consideration of third party changes in their lifestyles, how important ethical or responsible investments are to them etc...
Clients go to an account to lodge tax and ways to minimize tax.
Clients go to a lawyer to represent them or lodge a legal document.
Clients go to a financial planner to make more money from their investments and/or get insurance product. That's all!
Any more documentation than this is guff and simply adds to the cost of advice... and who is it that ultimately pays?
The client!

What about a recognition not to lump all financial advisers together as Financial Planners? Investment Advisers and Stockbrokers having to do Grad Dip. of FP and study insurance and non related courses that do nothing but waste time and money. That precious time could be much better utilised by spending it with existing clients.

Well you can blame the Heads of all the Stockbroking firms for that. They went to Canberra as a Group and tried to get out of ALL the new requirements. They all lobbied hard for total exemption. If they had just said 'Hey we'll do the FASEA Exam but let us off the degree requirement' they probably would have won a carve out for themselves and Insurance Advisers. But no, they were not that smart.

Where was FPA and AFA response to the ABC hatchet job?

for the media to not generalise about planners would mean that they are ethical and honest in how they go about reporting news. I'm afraid to say that these values are non existent among journalists who are more interested in their next headline for 5 minutes of fame than to report a balanced article

Why is it the FPA are silent and its left a practitioner to defend our industry. FPA please justify to the group why we are paying you member fees?? Surely Dante you read money management? Hello Dante are you there, say something Dante......

Well done Jonathan Elliot.

I totally agree with most of the comments on this article, and especially the idea of writing to anyone who seeks to debase our profession.

Try it. Many journalists are far more aware of our difficulties than you might think. Adele Ferguson even wrote something close to an apology in a follow-up article not so long ago, when advisers flooded her inbox with facts and information to highlight issues with the original article.

FASEA's conduct is a classic case of flawed ethics, right up there with the likes of CPA Australia's coddle with ASIC and the debacle of CPA Advice. FASEA has clearly set out to penalise advisers. How that has been allowed to occur beggars belief, but it has. Bringing public slander to account is important.

Sorry everyone. I am just worn out. I have no energy to take up this lobby approach. I will however remember that both liberal & labor and national parties have allowed this debarcle and vote accordingly. But as an industry we are done. ASIC do not even require a new robadvice company to have a licence, or appear to check their compliance or audit them. I can't compete on this grossly misaligned playing field.

Bolt, Karvelas, Jones, Ferguson, McCrann, Koch, Fordham, Sales, Panahi, Dagge, Taylor, Mitchell, Trioli,


Yep! Just like Financial Advisers, all media are the same. How can we trust anyone of them?

It's nice to see some push back.

I am very tired of being made to feel like I'm some sort of 'Huckster' for being a financial adviser. Especially when I became an AR because of FOFA as I saw an opportunity to have a career considered as noble, rewarding and something to be proud of over the long term.

Every profession in Australia surely has their Max Bialystock's and Leo Bloom's. (I'd be surprised if they didn't!)
I'm sure everyone here can cobble up a few names who found their way into the papers from the medical, accounting and legal professions without too much trouble. (Let's not do this here).

The behaviour of these types of characters should be called out. Quite rightly there should be intervention upon those who do the wrong thing. However it is most unfair to paint the profession as a collective with such negative sentiment by suggesting this improper behaviour is systemic when it is not.

In my opinion, the media world can and must do better. Our representative bodies need to challenge media assertions more (something we've been beginning to see). This might make someone think a bit harder before they publish their next article.

Perhaps in the future, perhaps a very distant one - I won't have to come on this website (a good website by the way) and not leave feeling depressed.

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