The board of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) meets for the first time today, and the financial planning community is awaiting an early indication of how the authority will tackle the task of setting new education, ethical and professional standards.

Chaired by Catherine Walter, the board is made up of three individuals with financial services experience, three directors with consumer advocacy experience, an ethicist and an academic (see box).

A priority for the board will be to set about finding a chief executive who will manage the authority’s day-to-day operations. And while the announcement of a CEO is not expected from today’s meeting, the industry is hoping the authority will send a clear signal of how it plans to consult with stakeholders, and in particular individual practitioners and the associations that represent them, in carrying out its job.

The chief executive of the Financial Planning Association, Dante De Gori, says it is time for FASEA to outline for the industry how it plans to co-ordinate the committees or working groups expected to be necessary to deal with the volume of work FASEA has been briefed to undertake.

“It will be good to hear from them; we need to hear from them,” De Gori says. “Are they going to be consulting and discussing with the stakeholders, rather than just telling us how everything is going to be? And are they going to use the industry as a thought network, using individual representatives in terms of working groups and committees, and so on.”

De Gori says the industry needs to hear from FASEA “that it is ready to go, that it has a plan of attack, what its list of priorities is, and its timelines”.

The board’s work in coming months and years will cover a range of issues critical to raising standards across financial planning, including:

  • Approving degrees or higher or equivalent qualifications
  • Approving foreign qualifications
  • Approving and/or administering the exam
  • Determining the requirements for the professional year
  • Selecting an appropriate common term for provisional relevant providers
  • Setting supervision or other requirements for provisional relevant providers
  • Determining the continuous professional development (CPD) requirements in relation to licensees’ CPD years
  • Determining the requirements for financial advisers whose CPD year changes and whether to modify the operation of the Corporations Act for these individuals, for example, by requiring licensees to report non-compliance with the CPD requirement at a time other than at the end of their new CPD year
  • Determining the bridging course requirements for existing providers
  • Setting the code of ethics.

The authority has been established as a Commonwealth company, with each board member personally appointed by the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, and approved by Cabinet.

In her second reading speech, the minister said the structure would “balance the body’s independence with industry and consumer engagement”.

“It will also minimise the government’s footprint and allow for the possibility of easily transferring the standards body back to industry once trust and confidence in the sector is restored,” she said.

Funding for FASEA’s first four years will come from the four big banks and AMP, who between them own Australian financial services licensees that account for more than half of all financial planners in the country.

FASEA’s first formal deadline is January 1, 2019, by which time it must have determined the criteria for new planners entering the industry.