• subs-bellGet the latest news! Subscribe to the ifa bulletin

Advisers hit by anti-SMSF agenda

Financial advisers working with self-managed superannuation fund trustees are being disproportionately targeted, according to a commercial lawyer.

Responding to ASIC’s release of proposed guidelines to introduce additional disclosure requirements for advisers to SMSF trustees, lawyer Peter Townsend says advice professionals are the victims of SMSF ‘naysayers’.

“It saddens me to see that ASIC is buying into these negative arguments by going back to its usual solution of making advisers create more paperwork - more disclosure requirements, more documents that few read or understand, even more transference of liability to advisers – and all to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Mr Townsend said.

“Instead of spending time ensuring advisers tell all investors in SMSFs that they don’t have access to the statutory compensation scheme for theft or fraud maybe ASIC could spend more time ensuring that this theft and fraud doesn’t occur in the first place."

Mr Townsend called on advisers not to be affected by the “anti-SMSF agenda” and the view that SMSF structures are only suitable for high net worth investors.

“Any person with average intelligence and good professional advice can have their own super fund and can be as compliant as necessary,” he said.

The SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia (SPAA) – which counts a great number of financial advisers among its membership – welcomed ASIC’s proposed disclosure requirements but questioned whether the same scrutiny should be applied to APRA-regulated funds.

“It is interesting that we don’t see similar analysis of the larger superannuation funds and whether a particular fund may be the right one for a particular client,” SPAA director of professional standards Graeme Colley told ifa.

Meanwhile, in a sign of more harmonious relations between financial planners and accountants, Institute of Chartered Accountants head of superannuation Liz Westover defended the role advisers play in the SMSF sector.

Commenting on the ASIC SMSF disclosure proposals, Ms Westover said the “hole in the picture” is ASIC’s focus on the trustees that do obtain professional advice, rather than those who don’t.

“You’re not required [to get] advice to set up an SMSF, You can go to online providers and download all your own legal documents… so my concern is how do we make sure those people are not only able to access advice but do actually access that information,” she said.

“I think we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t overregulate to the point where it becomes too costly to obtain advice.”