Jim Stackpool says his Certainty Advice Group is in the final stages of obtaining approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for its Certainty Advice certification mark.

Stackpool formally launched the Certainty Advice mark last week and cited an early version of a proposed accounting standard, Accounting Professional and Ethical Standard (APES) 230, as a foundation for the new advice certification.

APES230 was initially drafted to ban all forms of conflicted remuneration. But it was eventually watered down, after considerable pressure from sectors of the accounting profession and financial planning industry on the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board (APESB), a body that despite caving in on the financial planning standard is notionally independent.

Stackpool says the Certainty Advice mark picks up on the early draft of APES230 and is based on “a collection of agreed methods to deliver comprehensive and ethical advice where there is no real or perceived conflict or incentive”.

“It’s the comprehensive version of APEAS230,” he says.

“The adviser is only paid by the client, in methods that are clear and understandable – and that means in dollar amounts.

“A certification mark is like a trademark. However, unlike a trademark, a certification mark includes a set of standards, a set of rules, that anything bearing the certification must adhere to.”

Checks to monitor compliance

The certification mark applies to individual financial planners and Stackpool says there will be checks in place to monitor compliance. The certification covers how advisers determine value for clients, how clients are engaged and re-engaged each year and how advice is priced free of conflict.

Stackpool says financial planning has consistently failed to win the trust of the public and to offer a service that is deemed relevant. After 25 years of compulsory superannuation, during which time countless Australians have paid millions of dollars for “advice” embedded in the cost of superannuation products, there is still not one trusted or recognised brand in the sector.

“In that [25] years, you would think there would be several names or brands that best represent comprehensive and ethical financial advice,” he says.

“You’d hope by now that financial advice was not just seen as something for the wealthy. Yet last week MLC released a report saying 73 per cent of Australians believed that was the case.

“I hope by 2030 a form of ethical financial advice, like Certainty Advice, will be expected, valued by most Australians all over the country, not just the wealthy.”

Stackpool says final approval is expected in three to six months. The ACCC on its website says part of its approval process for certification marks involves

• Assessing the requirements that goods/services/persons must meet in order to be eligible to have a CTM applied to them, and assessing the proposed process by which compliance with certification requirements will be judged.

• Examining the rules to ensure they are not to the detriment of the public or likely to raise any concerns relating to competition, unconscionable conduct, unfair practices, product safety and/or product information.

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