Adviser education requirements to benefit accounting firms

Proposed educational requirements for financial planners could help break down cultural barriers between accountants and advisers, Licensing for Accountants chief executive Kath Bowler says. 

During a CPA Australia conference earlier this month, Ms Bowler said the major reason the two professions have not successfully worked together in the past is because of a culture clash.

However, those differences may soon find common ground thanks to a slew of industry changes, which include new educational standards for financial planners proposed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services (PJC).

"If you look at accountants, [they're] typically degree-qualified, typically have a more introverted personality, [are] more conservative," Ms Bowler said. "I see accountants as far more often asked to advise on one particular issue.

"[Meanwhile], financial planners in the past have not been degree-qualified. Their personality tends to be more extroverted, sales-driven and far more used to giving holistic advice. In fact, if you are operating under most licensees, they have almost forced you in the past to give holistic advice and cover all the issues at one time.

"The education requirements for planners are changing, and they will hopefully require a degree. I think that – not now, but probably 10 years from now – will have a significant impact on those cultural differences,."

Ms Bowler said other changes expected to be conducive to this merging include new licensing options for accountants and FOFA legislation that is expected to shift more value onto advice.

"Accountants don't value the advice they offer. Historically, accountants have valued compliance and have given away advice for free. Planners have not valued advice, either. They have given that away for free, then loaded up their product commissions," she said.

"Hopefully now, with the changes with FOFA and the coming together of the two professions, this is where there might be some common ground in that both professions will have to place a value on the advice they are giving."

Ms Bowler believes new licensing options that do not require product sales or holistic advice will also make it easier for accountants to adopt financial planning.

"The legislation with FOFA made scaled advice possible and it sits comfortably with accountants – particularly accountants wanting to move into advice. They can start by giving one or two pieces of advice."

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