The Financial Planning Association of Australia The Financial Planning Association of Australia

A message from the CEO: 2015 is the year of opportunity

Over the past twelve months, our profession has been tested with ongoing uncertainty and more than a fair share of turbulence. Yet, amidst this discomfort, we have a unique opportunity to shape the future of financial planning and advance our journey towards becoming a respected profession.

Imagine, if once and for all, the professional financial planning community gained the public trust, respect and recognition it deserves. Imagine a day, where consumers are drawn to FPA members, confident that they sign up to higher education and professional standards and will always act in their best interests. And imagine if the media was to recognise professional financial planners for the important community service they provide.

Our profession is in the eye of a perfect storm, surrounded by external forces that could help us put the wheels in motion. Never before has there been a set of circumstances where the public, media and Government have all called on the industry to support higher education and professional standards. While standards remain low, inconsistent and patchy, our profession will remain under excessive scrutiny and consumers will continue to receive the wrong message.

The spotlight is now firmly on education and professional standards and it will be for some time. The Financial System Inquiry, Senate Inquiry into the Performance of ASIC and most recently the PJC Inquiry into education and professional standards, have widely supported the measures we called for in our submissions, and in the FPA 10 Point Plan – these measures are critical to building trust with consumers.

The PJC Inquiry made the following recommendations, all of which have received bipartisan support:

  • A minimum degree qualification for new financial planners
  • An independent body (FPEC) to be the gatekeeper of minimum education standards and requirements
  • FPEC to be controlled and funded by professional bodies approved by the Professional Standards Councils (PSC)
  • A professional year, registration examination and ongoing Continued Professional Development for financial planners
  • Re-labelling the term ‘general advice’ to ‘product sales information’ and the term ‘personal advice’ to ‘financial advice’
  • The term ‘financial adviser’ and ‘financial planner’ to be enshrined in the Corporations Act, and only individuals registered as a financial adviser and a member of a PSC approved Professional Association can use these titles.

We believe that these recommendations provide a holistic education and professional framework that will lift advice standards across the industry over time. As such, we do not support the ASIC proposed ongoing examination, which appears to be a standalone recommendation.

There is no doubt that more work is required, to ensure the detail is workable and that there is a sufficient, realistic transitional arrangement for those who need it. While we must lead for the future, we must also respect the past. We will be working with Government on important fine tuning.

In the meantime, we urge our members, and the industry in general, to get behind the higher education and professional standards housed in the PJC Inquiry recommendations. Our support will ensure the evolution of financial planning into a respected and noble profession.

Together, we can stand proudly with Australians for a better financial future.

Mark Rantall CFP®