It’s always a balancing act putting together the professional and technical education part of a conference, and this year at the SMSF Association Conference is no exception – with one added tweak. Liz Ward, head of education services at the SMSF Association, says the recent passage of the Corporations Amendment (Professional Standards of Financial Advisers) Bill meant “more implications for more delegates,” and the professional stream had to reflect that.

“We have more accountants looking to move into the AFSL space all the time, and that means we’re always trying to provide delegates with as much information as we can,” said Ward.

“The government always sets minimum standards, but our members are committing to do more than that – they’re typically ahead of the regulatory requirements.”

Accountants coming into the AFSL space encounter “plenty of grey” when it comes to the conversations that can be held with or without the licence, said Ward. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis this year on what are the boundaries in a client conversation, where it needs to stop.

“Because it’s not exactly black-and-white, we’ve provided a template of what you need as a practitioner to talk about a certain topic, for example, shares. They might know that topic, but are they legally allowed to discuss it with their clients? We’re working on guiding practitioners.”

SMSF auditors face a new obligation to do at least 20 hours of CPD a year on superannuation, with eight of these hours specifically on SMSFs: the 2017 Conference program is structured so that they can achieve the SMSF component at the conference, and “get well on their way toward the 20 hours,” said Ward.

“The CPD requirement for SMSF Advisors is not as prescriptive, but the whole conference provides them with CPD hours.”

The specialist workshops have been increased from four last year to 10 this year, in response to member demand. “People learn in different ways; we still have the theatre-style sessions, but a lot of people like to learn by participating in discussion, so we’ve boosted the workshop component,” said Ward. “Advice being a talking occupation, workshops are very popular.”

Another innovation is 15-minute invited sponsor sessions – “like speed-dating” – divided into investments and technology. “What we wanted to do there was connect the exhibition hall with the conference a bit more, and give rise to better conversations in the exhibition hall,” said Ward.

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