An issue that I have not wavered on in the last 15 years has been the importance of ensuring an industry where quality advice prevails.
I believe that as an industry we need a baseline standard for adviser conduct and mechanisms for ensuring that. I also personally find value in degree-level studies in terms of developing skills around being able analyse and think critically. That said, however, degrees are not the only way such skills can be developed.
The opinion of the advice community about the need for existing advisers to obtain degree-level qualifications is fairly united in that if they are made to undertake further study then there is no doubt that those approaching retirement would be inclined to ‘take an early mark’ and avoid the hassle of more study altogether.
If that were the case, the effect that would have on the advice community – and their clients in the long run – would be monumental.
Ethical and knowledgeable older advisers provide valuable mentoring to young people entering the industry. And, while we are in a period of change, with some changes long overdue, it would be pertinent to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
One of the downsides of the recent focus on advisers has no doubt been the impact on legitimate, principled people who, regardless of qualifications, would behave with their clients' best interests in mind. Mind you, there is certainly no shortage of individuals with degree qualifications who have been found guilty of breaching financial services laws over the years.
In addition, I would say that a degree does not equal a passion for working with people or on an overall empathy for a family’s financial security. The provision of financial services is still a relationship game. You could be as qualified as they come, but yet still lack the necessary drive or ability required to build a relationship with a client and their family.
It is not simply about knowing your products inside and out. It’s about knowing your clients and their family inside and out too.
As with all policy change there will likely be some parts that are less palatable to the adviser community than others. Ultimately at Rando & Associates we engage actively in any industry changes and; are already putting in place plans, regardless of Treasury’s recommendations on the matter so that we are able to provide the same consistent level of service that our clients have come to expect from us.
In regards to industry bodies such as the FPS who have stated that current advisers should not be required to become degree qualified to meet the new standards, I am glad to see these groups have remained strong on the issue of not requiring degree qualifications for existing advisers. Furthermore, this is a move also supported by consumer representative body Choice.
In the meantime, we at Rando & Associates will remain proactive and await to see what Treasury has to say regarding its recommendations relating to new advisers entering the industry.
Mark Rando is the managing director and a senior adviser of advice practice Rando & Associates
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