Education timeline to impose ‘unreasonable burden’: Centrepoint

Centrepoint Alliance has joined the cohort of industry voices pushing the government to recognise specialisation and to extend the timeline proposed in the adviser education draft.

In a statement, Centrepoint Alliance chief executive John de Zwart said while he is a strong advocate of improving professionalism in the industry, the short amount of time advisers have to become degree-qualified will impose an "unreasonable burden".

"The current proposed timeframe of two years to complete bridging courses places an unreasonable burden on existing financial advisers, their practices and staff, especially those in independently-owned advice practices. Further, it will disproportionately affect women advisers who tend to have greater family responsibilities," he said.

"This is likely to have a considerable impact on the sustainability, competitiveness and client service experience of financial advice practices – especially those that are independently-aligned and not financially supported by an institution or dealer group.

"We believe a more workable timeframe would be completion by 1 July 2021," he said.

Centrepoint said the proposed one-off exam should focus on ethics, since there is a wide variety of specialisation in the industry. Further, passing that exam should be enough for experienced advisers who can prove they are engaged in ongoing training.

"We believe transitioning advisers should meet the professional qualifications in all respects except they should only be tested on core subjects such as ethics, professional code of conduct, and professional liability, plus areas related to their speciality. Once qualified they would only be licensed to advise on their area of speciality," Mr de Zwart said.

"Highly experienced advisers who can demonstrate appropriate ongoing investment in their education (e.g. CFA, CFP, FChFP, etc.) and have a minimum period of experience demonstrating their competencies (e.g. five years) should be allowed to sit the same exam or a cut-down specialist exam, irrespective of whether they hold a degree."

Mr de Zwart added that financial advice is important for Australians – making it all the more crucial that the transition to the new standards is appropriate.

"The new professional standards should therefore recognise that financial advice is a complex area and the current education levels of existing advisers differ greatly, as does their experience and specialisations," he said.

"We need to get this transition right so that there are not unintended consequences that come back to bite the industry and, ultimately, consumers."

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