Jo-Anne Bloch reflects on the challenges and achievements of her time at the helm of the FPA

“We’ve set a clear direction for the FPA and  financial planning, making the bar high enough so that not everyone out there can make it. Those that do make it do the right thing, and minimise risk for clients.

“You’re now starting to hear Government, ASIC and Treasury talking about the Certified  Financial Planner [CFP]; it’s been in submissions, it’s recognised and that mark has a much higher profile. What we have to do is get that mark out in the community. That takes much longer, but there’s no doubt that we’ve made it very clear that the CFP designation is the Gold Standard; it’s a global mark; it means something, and when you want to look for trusted advice, look for that mark.”

GIVING THE FPA TEETH

“One of the comments that was made when I started was that the FPA had no teeth. And I think that’s beginning to change. Westpoint was very difficult for us because our system at the time was tested. I don’t think we’d ever had complaints as serious as those that we dealt with, with Westpoint, and it forced us to say, ‘does our system stack up?’

“And the changes we made were in response to much more serious issues that we’d probably never dealt with before.”

IMPLEMENTING REFORM

“We pretty much turned everything on its head; we’ve lifted every stone and we’ve made  the changes we needed to. Publicly, internally, because we had to, because it was part of the process – for whatever reason, it was the right time to do what we did and we made the most of the timing of it.

“The next phase is about embedding what we said we would do, what the Government has put on the agenda, what the [Parliamentary Joint  Committee] has put on the agenda, what Cooper is looking at, and moving it forward.

“What’s important in the next phase is making sure we don’t go back to the “good old days”,  just because markets return. We have to have learned from the last couple of years, we have to have acknowledged our flaws and the things we were not doing perfectly; we also have to acknowledge that there were some good things happening, lots of professionals, good advice, et  cetera – but let’s come out of it changed.

PERSONAL PERFORMANCE

“My aim in all of this was to represent financial planners, and financial planners needed that public face, because the majority of financial planners have done, and will continue to do, the right thing; so it was always my objective to isolate the bad guys, the bad incidents, and demonstrate that actually they were an isolated exception – but to demonstrate, also, that we were not going to just live with it, we were going to do something about it.

“It’s been character-building. There’s no doubt about that. And I have to say I have also  learned to get a bit more thick-skinned than I might have been in the beginning. And that  has come from the support of people like Julie (Berry), who have continued to say this is not personal, this is about the CEO of the FPA, it’s not about Jo-Anne Bloch.”

PROFESSIONAL UNITY

“I think we still have some way to mature on that front. There are some really good examples in our industry where we know for a fact that  different parties hate each other with a passion  behind closed doors, but unite under a common purpose because the vision and the bigger picture is common; it’s understood and it’s supported.

“But there is absolutely a tendency to debate through the public, which is just quite interesting.

QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY

“I think quite frankly we may lose some members in the process [of raising professionalism]. And the board has firmly set a focus on quality not quantity. So this is not going to be a numbers game, it’s going to be a quality game.

“Now, the maturity of our profession is around accepting that its representative body is a  professional body, that has a code to enforce; it’s  not an industry association, it’s not an advocacy group. It’s not just a voice for its membership.  That is something that we still have to get into  the mindset of our membership – and I think it’s the minority.”

THE FUTURE

“I would hope that professional financial planners will be a distinct, easily identifiable  group, whereby you will know that not only are  they meeting with the requirements of Corporations Law, but they are acting with integrity and they are putting their clients first.

“And I hope that we will be able to identify this group and understand that we’re getting  client-focused advice from this group. That the remuneration underpinning this group is of value; it’s transparent and it’s delivering real benefits.

At the end of it all – however we get there – there’s got to be an easily identifiable group of professional financial planners who people can trust.”

This is an edited version of an article that originally  appeared on www.professionalplanner.com.au

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