simon hoyleBy the time this edition of Professional Planner reaches you, Jo-Anne Bloch will be in the final days of her tenure as chief executive of the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA). Bloch announced her resignation on February 10.



The FPA board will be well advanced in its search for Bloch’s successor, if that successor has not been named since the magazine went to print. It’s not overstating it to say that the board’s decision may be the most important in the FPA’s relatively short history.
 
Bloch and the board have manoeuvred the FPA to the cusp of something really significant.

They have, supported by the tireless staff at the FPA, taken the association and its member¬ship through a process that might have seemed unthinkable a few short years ago. Back then, there seemed little likelihood that much would change in the financial planning industry. The status quo was entrenched; the powerful vested interests had no interest in changing a nice, cosy little set-up; and, when it came to financial advice, consumers would basically take what they were given, and be grateful for it.

The very first FPA national conference, in 1992, was striking in how little things had actu¬ally changed from the year before, at the final national conference of the International Associa¬tion for Financial Planning (IAFP) – before it merged with ASIFA to form the FPA.

At the IAFP conference, a group of fund managers sat around the pool and played a game of "spot the adviser". Advisers were outnumbered by representatives of fund managers to such a degree that whenever an adviser was unwise enough to wander into the pool area, the BDMs set upon him (or her, but mostly him) like pira¬nhas taking down a capybara.

At the first FPA conference there was opti¬mism that the merger would create a powerful, united front to represent the interests of financial planners, work on raising standards and on con¬vincing the public of the worth of the industry.

But otherwise, it was pretty much business as usual. Clearly, it was going to take more than a change of name to effect a change of culture.

Successive CEOs have had varying priorities – including ensuring the FPA actually survived as a commercially-viable entity – but it is under Bloch that the greatest strides towards credibility and true professionalism have been made.

Whomever replaces Bloch has the task of maintaining the association’s momentum. It would be nothing short of a tragedy if it were to stall at this point, or cave in to various vested interests that oppose some of the association’s positions on key issues.

As an aside, it’s curious that just as Bloch announces she’s heading for the exit, talk of a merger between the FPA and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) should surface. It’s particularly curious because many of the AFA’s members are advisers who have quit the FPA in protest at its stance on issues such as remu¬neration and the concept of putting the clients’ interests first. Why they’d then willingly rejoin the FPA is an interesting question. However, the FPA’s announcement that its members should be free to continue to accept commissions on risk products may help explain it.

Bloch’s successor must also stamp their per¬sonality on the organisation – and in this respect, Bloch will be a hard act to follow. Any organisa-tion undergoing significant change needs strong leadership – the FPA particularly so because, as mentioned, its membership is not unanimously behind some of the changes taking place, nor the positions taken by the association on a number of critical issues.

It’s going to require a strong personality to stand up to those FPA members who most vocally criticise the association and its leadership. Bloch’s successor must be prepared for some personal attacks – Bloch herself has had a few over the years – but remain focused on the ultimate objective.

The guard might be changing, but the battle must continue to be fought.

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On the subject of departures, in this edition of Professional Planner we bid farewell to Garry Weaven. One of the financial services industry’s true original thinkers, a co-architect of Australia’s compulsory superannuation system and a driving force behind the rise and rise of the industry super fund movement, Garry has been a loud and persuasive voice in the quest to raise standards in financial planning.

Garry has been a contributor to this maga-zine since its inception in October, 2007. As he notes in his final column, some readers will be pleased to see him go. Personally, I’m not so happy. Garry’s consistency, logic and insight into the issues has been an invaluable element in helping to develop Professional Planner‘s voice. Garry can depart as a columnist satisfied with a job well done, and with our thanks.

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 CORRECTIONS

Due to an error in transcribing an audio recording of a roundtable, an incorrect quote was attributed to Claire Mackay, of Quantum Financial Services, in the February – March 2010 edition of Professional Planner. Mackay referred to “… planners who are putting their clients’ best interests first, who are not tied to product manufacturers …”. She did not say “… who are not tied to corrupt manufacturers …”. Professional Planner apologises for the error.


A chart published in the February – March edition, in the article “Anchoring and aversion to ambiguity”, omitted the source line. The chart was based on data supplied by the Investment and Financial Services Association (IFSA) and Tyndall Investment Management.

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