Helping clients make smart decisions with their money is as important during market downturns as it is in boom times, according to David Sharpe, chair of the Financial Planning Association’s Western Australia chapter.

“The role is always going to be there one way or the other, whether on the upside or limiting the downside. With these redundancies coming through, I’ve never been of more value to my clients than when they’ve been made redundant,” says Sharpe.

Sharpe met with Professional Planner last Thursday in his office on the outskirts of the Perth’s central business district, ahead of the FPA’s Western Australia adviser roadshow – his first in the role of chair.

A healthy cohort

He took up the position around seven months ago, overseeing a healthy cohort of around 1000 FPA members across Western Australia. The chapter hosts six events per year, running the meetings, setting the agendas and organising speakers for the sessions that typically attract between 100 and 150 attendees.

While the FPA chapter is in good shape, the same can’t be said for the Western Australian economy. Plummeting commodity prices have forced many companies involved in the state’s dominant mining and related sectors to shed staff – many of the same people Western Australia’s financial planners serve.

Sharpe says that if a client’s job is made redundant or they are otherwise laid off, helping them manage cash flow is critical, especially when often a family’s major source of income has been halted.

“We help them figure out how to structure their cash flow now, to still send their kids to school…to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table,” he says.

“That’s the flipside of what financial planning is. It’s not just simply managing wealth.”

Within his own practice, Sharpe services a broad range of clients who predominantly receive holistic financial advice. Since starting Globe Financial Planning more than five years ago, he has built up a book of around 70 clients. Sharpe estimates around 50 are full service clients, with the remainder receiving more targeted advice.

As a practice principal, he highlights the implementation of compliance reforms as one of the biggest challenges at present, particularly the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) legislation’s opt in provision.

Be ready to comply

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) facilitative approach towards FoFA compliance ends on June 30, with planners warned to be ready to comply fully with the new laws – particularly the controversial opt-in provisions.

“I’d love to see a situation where the opt in and fee disclosure statement dates are different, where you can opt in at any time inside that two year period and it resets it,” Sharpe says.

“The opt out regime, I think, would have been much better. The client would get the FDS so they know what they have to pay, they get it each year, then if they decide they don’t want to pay it any more, they can opt out.”

Sharpe also discusses the move toward minimum standards of education, something he vigorously supports.