Wealthtrac launches a cloud-based SMSF platform, retail investors look offshore while ASIC warns securities dealers and the AFA demands amnesty on super tax, arguing that continuing speculation are dangerous for the superannuation system and that this anxiety is impacting people at all income levels.

AFA demands government amnesty on super tax

The Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) is calling for an amnesty on making changes to the taxation of superannuation in next month’s federal budget in order to restore consumer faith in the Australian retirement system. The call comes in response to reports from AFA members of a significant increase in client concern following speculation around increasing the tax rate on superannuation contributions in this year’s budget.

“Our members indicate that the speculation is driving high levels of anxiety among those of their clients who are trying to fund their own retirement and avoid the need for future government handouts,” said AFA president Michael Nowak. “Continuing speculation over the last few months and the recent ramp-up in media speculation about the issue are seriously dangerous for the superannuation system and this anxiety is impacting people at all income levels.”

While the speculation includes reducing the income level at which a higher contributions tax kicks in, Nowak said the real problem is the message being sent to consumers.

“The 2012 introduction of an increase in contributions tax (an extra 15 per cent for people earning more than $300,000) coupled with the potential further change to this threshold in 2013 begins to create a pattern of policy change,” he said. “Consumers are concerned there is a very real risk the threshold will be further reduced in coming years.”

Regulator warning to securities dealers

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has accepted an enforceable undertaking from Halifax Investment Services following regulator surveillance, which found deficiencies in its risk management and compliance. Halifax will need to appoint an independent consultant to review its business and develop a plan to rectify the deficiencies. The independent expert will report regularly to ASIC over the next year on Halifax’s implementation of the plan.

Over six months last year ASIC’s review of Halifax’s operations found licence compliance issues with its financial services practices, in particular:

  • supervision and monitoring of representatives;
  • having technological resources to supervise and monitor representatives; and
  • oversights in the training and professional standards of representatives.

ASIC deputy chairman Belinda Gibson said today’s outcome should send a warning to securities dealers about the importance of having adequate compliance and governance standards.

“The enforceable undertaking requires Halifax to put in place a plan to rectify the deficiencies under the eyes of ASIC and an external independent expert. It requires Halifax to rethink significantly the way it monitors its representatives and to create a culture where compliance is central to the services it provides,” Gibson said.

Active retail investors looking offshore for growth

A survey by equity research company Skaffold has found active share investors believe offshore markets, particularly the US, will outperform the ASX over the coming 12 months. And while more than half of respondents definitely want to increase their investments into international stocks, an inability to research individual stocks and a lack of knowledge about other markets is holding them back. Skaffold general manager, Chris Batchelor, said demand for access to quality research on global shares was on the increase, but that stock research needed to be cost effective and easy to use if it was to serve its purpose.

“When designing Skaffold, we wanted to ensure it was easy to use for investors of every level, that’s why we have built it with gaming design and technology in mind. Since our launch last year, we have witnessed strong demand from investors who are making stock selection decisions for themselves or their clients. This includes SMSF investors, financial advisers and private as well as institutional investors,” he said.

“The investors we have talked with recently believe that international markets will present the best investment opportunity in the coming 12 months, so we believe our new Global product will see strong uptake levels.”

Skaffold asked more than 100 active investors about their views and intentions with international investment markets.

The survey found that 50.4 per cent are looking to increase their investments in international shares, while 43.4 per cent were undecided, signaling that this figure could rise.

Wealthtrac launches cloud-based SMSF platform

Independent wealth product distributor Wealthtrac has launched a new cloud-based SMSF platform that brings together all SMSF administration and reporting needs into one centralised hub. Wealthtrac managing director and chief executive Matthew Johnson said the launch is the next step in its strategy to provide a more comprehensive range of products and services that help independent advisers more efficiently manage their businesses.

“We spent two years researching the SMSF platform market, specifically looking for a solution that offered an end-to-end cloud-based model with all the features that would allow our dealers to deliver an exceptional SMSF service to their clients,” he said. “We have also been working closely with our advisers to understand their changing needs post-FoFA, with issues such as fees, compliance and process automation being at the top of the list. We believe our new SMSF certainly meets their needs in these respects.”

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