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

Consumer group attack on financial planners is unjustified as Australians battle COVID-19 crisis

The Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) is extremely disappointed by the statements made by consumer group Choice that Australians should consult a financial counsellor rather than a financial adviser about early access to superannuation.

Choice Policy and Campaigns Adviser Patrick Veyret was quoted in a Money Management article today (9 April) encouraging those in financial difficulty to “contact financial counsellors, not financial advisers”.

The FPA disagrees with this statement and encourages those in financial difficulty to contact either a financial planner or a financial counsellor – whichever they choose. At this stage time is of the essence. Both play hugely important roles and can be of service to those facing hardship during this time.

Dante De Gori, CEO of the FPA, refuted these statements and said Australians should consult whoever they have a trusted relationship with during this challenging time.

“That could be a financial planner, a financial counsellor or another financial services professional. It is important that we are united as a community during this difficult period, particularly on a matter as significant as the early withdrawal of super for those experiencing hardship,” Mr De Gori said.

“The consumer groups who made these statements – Super Consumers Australia, Council On The Ageing (COTA) Australia and Choice – are doing a disservice to the community by spreading misinformation about financial planners. Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and slanderous remarks are completely unnecessary and unhelpful.”

Mr Veyret was quoted in the same article stating: “It will only be in very rare circumstances that a financial adviser recommending early access of superannuation is doing so in your best interests.”

“The FPA completely rejects this assertion and requests Mr Veyret’s statement be retracted as he is in no position to decide what is in the best interest of a customer, nor can he make claims about client circumstances,” Mr De Gori said.

“Financial planners must adhere to a best interest duty at all times. This is an important piece of legislation that separates financial planners from other financial services professionals and ensures they are always aligned to client outcomes.

Financial planners play a critical role in the lives of their clients and have been overwhelmed with inquiries in recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks financial havoc on the lives of Australians.

The FPA is confident that financial planners and financial counsellors can share duties supporting those who are in financial difficulty.

“For too long financial advice has been misrepresented as a service for the wealthy. That is not the case, and the FPA will continue to work tirelessly to ensure more Australians are able to access advice. Particularly in times of financial hardship,” Mr De Gori said.