Independent adviser designation re-launched

An accreditation program specifically for non-insto financial advisers has been redeveloped in a bid to rival the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.

The Certified Financial Strategist (CFS) designation was initiated by the Association of Independently Owned Financial Professionals a number of years ago and was re-launched at the association’s offshore conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, yesterday to better reflect the post-FOFA environment.

Like the Financial Planning Association-administered CFP, the CFS is awarded to advisers who can demonstrate expert knowledge and evidence of relevant advanced education, but differs in that it is only available to “advisers that work for an independently owned financial practice” and are not “under the influence” of major financial institutions, AIOFP executive director Peter Johnston said.

“What is the point of having a CFP or an economics degree if you are working for a bank flogging products?” Mr Johnston asked conference delegates. “There is no value for the consumer.”

In addition, the CFS designation recognises advisers who utilise investment research services that are not conflicted through the receipt of fees from fund managers, Mr Johnston said.

“Since 2006 there has been $36 billion of frozen or failed funds and every one of them had paid a research house for a rating,” he said. “Research source is critical to the quality of advice a client will receive; an adviser’s qualifications do not necessarily mean they have mitigated risk if their research source is conflicted by product manufacturers paying for ratings.”

Participation in the recently-announced ASX educational seminars for AIOFP members is a prerequisite for CFS accreditation, the industry body boss said.

“We believe the CFS characteristics will appeal to consumers and be a point of difference,” Mr Johnston said. “The message is that while education is important, so is being independently-owned, using non-conflicted research and being ASX-aware.”

The AIOFP-owned Filtered Research Centre, which provides investment research services to members, relies on research from Mercer, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, JB Were, Taylor Collison and McGregor Consulting, none of whom accept payment from financial product providers, Mr Johnston said.

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