Advisers chime in on degree standard debate

Advisers chime in on degree standard debate

While a degree requirement will benefit the advancement of the financial advice profession, it is not all that is needed, according to one group of industry participants.

In a response to a blog post by consultant Jim Stackpool, founder of Certainty Advice Group, several advisers offered their thoughts on whether the proposed degree requirement for new entrants is the "missing link" for adviser competency.

One of those advisers, Todd Stanford, principal of wealth advisory at William Buck, believes it is. 

"Doctors, engineers, actuaries, and all other types of professions have to be degree-qualified as a minimum," he said.

PF Private Wealth managing director Terry Powell agrees, noting that advisers with degree qualifications could benefit industry and consumer perceptions.

"If we're sincere about making financial advice a profession, then it does need to raise the barriers to entry," Mr Powell said.

Travis Martin, principal wealth adviser at The Wealth Designers, said he would even struggle to hire someone who did not hold a degree.

"Ideally, I'd look for a financial planning degree, but if not, commerce or engineering – something where they teach the analytical processes of problem-solving," he said.

Others, however, do not believe holding a degree is enough.

Paxton Bridge Financial director David Murdoch said a degree will not make someone a better adviser or a more ethical one.

"A lot of graduates are technically very good, but struggle at first with their commercial sense and issues like strategic management," he said.

"That's where I think any accreditation should be far more practical. A curriculum could include disciplines such as ethics, project, client and strategic management."

Colin Benvenuto, owner of Emerge Financial, added that a required 'professional year' could help new entrants to gain that experience.

"The technical side is very important but it doesn't solve the issue of professionalism and ethics," he said.

"That's where the 'professional year' could really dig deep. What is your contribution to community, to people, family and to generations through your work?"

All of these changes to standards, however, may be pointless if the way the industry is structured is not also changed, said Mr Martin.

"While getting a degree is important, it's not going to solve the ethics problem in our industry," he said.

"We also need to look at the way the industry is structured, which is around products. We need to realign client outcomes in terms of compliance, not products. All this, including degrees and ethics, will contribute towards professionalising our industry."

Scott Farmer, owner of Bravium, said, "At the end of the day, the client engagement process is most important. It's the focus on getting results and being able to represent value that's important.

"That's not a training or a compliance issue, it's really a cultural issue in our industry," he said.

Advisers chime in on degree standard debate
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