Congratulations to the Financial Planning Association on turning 20 last month, celebrated by a five-city tour featuring technical workshops and recognition of the association’s best and brightest. More importantly, congratulations on the massive transformation the FPA board has achieved, and is in the process of continuing, for the association’s 10,000 members.

To download a full PDF of the December/January editorials and cover story, please CLICK HERE

I remember asking a former FPA chief executive whether he wanted to be more like the Australian Medical Association (AMA), or the Australian Wheat Board (AWB).

The AMA is a professional body representing the public interest in relation to medical services. It has authority to strike off doctors for malpractice. It sets and manages educational standards, is the medical community’s mouthpiece and is constructively engaged with government in policy work.

The AWB is an industry group representing wheat growers. Its key concern is to help farmers sell more wheat domestically and overseas, to help growers make more profit and to negotiate bulk commercial deals.

Both organisations have relevant and valid places in our society, even though they serve two very different purposes. One is a professional association, the other an industry one. With its recent changes, the FPA has become more like the AMA.

Having attended the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) national conference at the end of October, it was like stepping back in time 15 years. This group is clearly the equivalent of the AWB. They call themselves financial advisers and tell the public that they are. Some are, of course. However, most are solely about selling more insurance, which is fine. What I’m saying is, be authentic in what and who you are.

Good intentions
Richard Klipin, the chief executive of the AFA, who surprised many by quitting last month, has good intentions and high hopes of professionalising its members. But I saw little evidence from the conference that it is actually happening. Too many AFA members are being dragged kicking and screaming, especially the old guard, into the new world of increased regulation and professionalism.

I have real concerns about the reputations of financial planners – FPA members and CFPs who are well educated and most of whom operate as holistic planners – being dragged through the press by those who call themselves financial planners, but without the same commitment to professionalism.

The AFA conference featured lots of motivational speakers and sports people (some of whom only our grandparents would remember). There was plenty of talk about professionalism and the public interest, but the agenda didn’t back up that talk.

I understand insurance companies wanting to make a profit, but it really all looked very 1995. Acting in the public interest takes a massive commitment to being truly professional.

I realise this column won’t make too many friends but, frankly, someone has to say it. Let’s not pretend. The public deserves better. As articles in this issue of Professional Planner make clear, there are certain preconditions that have to be met before any organisation can call itself a professional association, and therefore before any individual can call themselves a professional.

If the AFA is a risk-industry association, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Be proud of it. But call it what it is, and if that’s the case, get out of the way and let a professional association represent professional financial planners – those who are seriously committed, first and foremost, to the public interest.

For an industry response to Tate’s opinion piece, please CLICK HERE