Associations snub pro bono claims call

Calls for the financial services industry associations to support an initiative to set up a pro bono claims service run by specialist risk advisers have fallen on deaf ears.

Brisbane-based adviser Jamie Forster, a life risk and SMSF specialist at self-licensed firm Elston Assure, aims to establish a project whereby the industry can provide free advice to “financially disadvantaged people who may have a legitimate insurance claim” but are not engaged in professional planning and claims management services.

Speaking to ifa, Mr Forster said the project is receiving some traction from fellow advisers but that assistance from the industry bodies is required in order for the project to become a success.

Mr Forster contacted the Financial Planning Association (FPA) – of which Mr Forster is a member – and the Association of Financial Advisers in October 2012 regarding the initiative but neither have responded, he said.

In the case of the Financial Services Council (FSC), Mr Forster received a formal letter declining the offer and referring him to the AFA and FPA as appropriate bodies for his request.

“While broadly supportive of the concept, we feel that this type or service would be more appropriately offered by individual advisers (perhaps centrally coordinated through the AFA or the FPA), unfortunately at this time this is not something that the FSC or Lifewise would be in a position to establish or manage,” said FSC senior policy manager Holly Dorber in the letter, obtained by ifa, citing “limited budget and very limited resources”.

While he says the industry bodies do not have a “moral obligation to participate” in the project, and he applauds their work on the Future2 Foundation, Mr Forster said their support would be an appropriate “service to their members” and would also assist with the public image of the advice industry.

“This service would be provided sincerely and transparently without expectation of financial reward of any sort,” Mr Forster said.

“Such an obviously altruistic service that provides real and measurable value would provide great marketing and public relations for the industry as a whole and the AFA and FPA as organisations as well as associated kudos for members of those organisations.

“There seems to be a lot of talking but not a lot of doing in relation to pro-bono and community service.”

Mr Forster said he is still hopeful of a response from the FPA and AFA and that the two organisations will "work jointly on this". 

However, just last week AFA chief executive Brad Fox, upon launching the organisation's latest white paper, spoke of the need for a new approach to insurance claims.

"The industry needs to launch something," he said. "Lifewise hasn't changed the underinsurance issue in its three years so either the message needs to change or we need a different vehicle to do it."

In February, FPA chief executive Mark Rantall told ifa of the importance of pro bono work in the industry, pointing to the FPA's natural disaster relief advice program. 

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