Financial adviser register goes live

ASIC’s register of financial advisers is now accessible, but some commentators are unconvinced of the consumer benefits.

First agreed to as part of now-redundant negotiations with the Palmer United Party over FOFA, the financial adviser register will from today publicly list all individuals authorised to provide personal advice, as well as any previous EUs or ASIC banning orders, as well as licensing details, including the "controller" i.e. parent company of the relevant licensee. 

ifa understands this last point was one of the more contentious issues debated by the AFSL Working Group made up of industry association representatives and lobbyists, but that ASIC was ultimately convinced ownership dislcosure was worthy of inclusion. 

Speaking to ifa recently, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg listed the register as one of a number of initiatives that will raise consumer confidence in the financial advice sector.

However, some commentators have criticised the register’s scope and focus.

Former CBA financial adviser Jeff Morris – a whistleblower on poor advice practices at the bank and consumer advocate – told ifa the register does nothing but “paper over” the industry’s problems.

“The register itself is part of a bigger smokescreen to minimise, indeed trivialise, the deeper problems in this industry,” Mr Morris said.

“[The problems are] not all about planners or even ‘rogue’ planners but about institutions flogging product by all means fair or foul.

“The planners are just the pawns in this game and like pawns [are] liable to be sacrificed when things go wrong, as they frequently do.”

Mr Morris said the register will be unable to accurately reflect prior adviser wrongdoing because only official ASIC enforcement actions will appear.

“The recent NAB financial planning scandal emphasises the problem – with 41 planners bad enough to sack or move on and 8 breach reports filed – [but] none of this will show up on the register unless ASIC took successful enforcement action based on the breach reports,” he said.

“In the well-known case of NAB planner Graeme Cowper, however, ASIC did not do so, citing lack of resources.

“Graeme Cowper will thus show up on the register as a ‘cleanskin’ yet he was bad enough for NAB to get rid of.”

Adviser Claire Mackay of Quantum Financial – who sits on an ASIC advisory panel – also criticised the register as “bronze when it could have been platinum”.

Speaking at the ASIC Annual Forum in Sydney last week, Ms Mackay said advice managers and executives should also be listed.

“My concerns, with something like the adviser register, is it is only five years, it’s only advisers [and] it’s not the supervisors of the advisers,” Ms Mackay said. 

However, Adviser Ratings spokesman Christopher Zinn issued a statement this morning welcoming the register as a sign of the "power for technology to drive transparency".

Meanwhile, BT Financial Group has pointed to the traction received by its own Adviser View website, which has garnered over 50,000 unique page views and 40,000 adviser searches since launch, according to a spokesperson. 

The financial adviser register can be accessed here: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/investing/financial-advice/financial-advisers-register

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