What would a year in financial planning be without a healthy dose of regulatory uncertainty, complaints about the regulator and the banning of a handful of financial planners?

The year just past is no different in this respect, but it was also a year when the industry demonstrated its remarkable resilience – when great businesses continued to develop innovative and creative strategies and value propositions; when great advice transformed clients’ lives; and when the industry continued to make significant strides towards professionalism.

Professional Planner was there to cover it all, and here is our year in review – some of the year’s biggest highlights, as we saw them unfold.

February

The year started out with a warning from Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Commissioner Peter Kell that the regulator would use the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) to rid the industry of those practitioners who do not measure up. And he defended ASIC’s expanded powers as being critical in significantly reducing the likelihood of a Storm-like collapse happening again.

We focused on the development of Chris Nairn’s financial planning business, Equus Private Wealth; and we took a close look at how non-aligned financial planning firms were beginning to contemplate a brighter future post-FoFA.

Professional Planner Online reported that practice valuations remained stable as the FoFA changes drew ever closer. ASIC accepted an enforceable undertaking from Commonwealth Financial Planning after investigating the conduct of a former employee. And research from the University of NSW said that a mooted plan to raise the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) from 9 per cent to 12 per cent flew in the face of the fact that it would place additional financial stress on those who can least afford it – the under-45s.

March

With the June 30 FoFA deadline approaching, the industry believed it had scored a significant concession from the government with a delay to the “hard” start date until June 30, 2013. Opposition to the opt-in proposal continued to mount, with boutique financial planning firms labelling it as ineffective and costly. But at the same time, the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board (APESB) pressed ahead with the development of a standard for financial planning – APES 230, which would be even more stringent than FoFA.

A round table featuring ASIC commissioner Peter Kell and former chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee (PJC) on Corporations and Financial services, Bernie Ripoll, identified the key issues that the industry still wanted greater clarification and certainty on.

Shadforth Financial Group demonstrated how a focus on quality over quantity was paramount in recruiting new advisers – its advisers made up 18 per cent of the Smart Investor financial planning Master Class – and WB Financial Management’s Graeme Rudd showed how a simple financial planning strategy executed well helped a Wollongong, NSW, couple generate the peace of mind of knowing their two special-needs children would be taken care of when they retire. We took a close look at latest developments in the mortgage trust industry, and examined the latest investment opportunities in China.

April

The chair of the APESB, Kate Spargo, outlined in detail why a financial planning standard that outlaws both commissions on risk business and asset-based fees is neither inappropriate nor something that will spell doom for accountants working in the financial planning space. Meanwhile, MLC and AMP, among others, continued to refine and develop licensing solutions for accountants to help them to develop financial planning propositions under FoFA. The industry’s wish for a “soft” launch for FoFA came true.

The former head of van Eyk Research, Stephen van Eyk, warned advisers against diversifying clients’ portfolios inadequately; and data – disputed after its release – purported to show that the creation of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) slowed in the December quarter of 2011 – the first time since June 2008.