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Interprac optimistic post-surveillance

ASIC’s revelation of SMSF advice concerns at Interprac Financial Planning has not fazed the NTAA-aligned licensee, instead providing an opportunity for “continuous self-improvement”.

Yesterday ASIC issued a statement announcing that Interprac had agreed to “undertake a number of measures” including the appointment of a compliance expert and mandatory SMSF specialist training after an investigation found “concerns about the appropriateness of advice provided to clients on the establishment of an SMSF”.

Speaking to ifa following the announcement, Interprac national compliance manager Michael Butler – who joined the group in April under the terms of the agreement with ASIC and is a former professional standards manager at the FPA – said the surveillance and subsequent changes are not being “seen as a negative”.

“We were happy to engage with the regulator: they have a job to do to restore public confidence and we support that whole-heartedly,” Mr Butler said.

“Would I prefer not to have had the press release issued? Of course. But in the scheme of things it’s not negative because anything that goes to improve the overall integrity of the business and the industry is a good thing.

“You either take these things as a negative or use them as an opportunity for valuable training and development and continuous self-improvement, and that’s what we have done.”

At the same time, Mr Butler rejected the suggestion that ASIC’s finding of “advice not being sufficiently tailored to the needs of each client” could be seen as evidence of ‘cookie-cutter advice’, explaining that Interprac’s advisers “operate a number of strategies rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach”. 

ASIC’s surveillance covered “around 20” of Interprac’s 100-odd authorised representatives, with the concerns raised by ASIC limited to just five of those 20 advisers.

“When you look at some of the other enforcement actions in this space at the moment, ours is fairly mild,” Mr Butler said. “There was no enforceable undertaking.”

Mr Butler – who has worked in financial services compliance for more than 30 years – says he has also noticed a change in the regulator’s approach to enforcement activity.

“Four or five years ago the same sort of surveillance would have probably been settled with a simple letter,” he said, “but I don’t have a problem with ASIC reminding people they are out there looking at these things.”