The Financial Planning Academics Forum (FPAF) has urged the new standards-setting body to collaborate more closely with the academic community as urgency grows for clarity on education standards for both new and existing financial planners.

The Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) is responsible for approving financial planning degrees for people who enter the industry after January 1, 2019; and for developing pathways for existing advisers to achieve a degree or degree-equivalent standard by January 1, 2024.

FASEA announced last month that, for new entrants, it will approve degrees already accredited by the Financial Planning Education Council (FPEC). FPAF co-chair Dr Adrian Raftery told the forum’s meeting at University of Tasmania yesterday that FASEA “didn’t approach any university” ahead of the announcement or afterwards.

“I thought it was pretty poor form that we had to find out about it in the press,” Raftery said.

FASEA’s announcement raised questions at FPAF about what the required core courses or units would be for approved degrees. FASEA stated that it would approve new-entrant degrees that consist of “up to 12 core courses”, but deputy chair and head of course accreditation for FPEC, Sharon Taylor, told FPAF that the council’s guidelines do not specify “core units” or “core courses”, instead defining content across discipline areas.

“That’s very different,” Taylor said. “We are not looking for eight specific subjects, we’re looking for content covered. I don’t think they realise the word they’ve used there is ‘courses’. That’s not what we intended, because otherwise we’re restricting universities to designing programs that have those units. That’s not what we did.”

Raftery said, for example, that FASEA made specific reference to a core course covering ethics. He said it is not clear if FASEA expects ethics to be treated as a separate subject or whether it could be covered within various financial planning subjects.

“The FPEC curriculum only talks about ethics as one sentence of one core unit, not a separate subject in its own right,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how that’s going to be approached. But we need to know now. As soon as we can find out that ethics needs to be included, we’ve got to drop the bat and [tell students] they’ve got to do it.”

FASEA will address existing financial planners in subsequent decisions and announcements, and Raftery said the authority should consult with the academic community more closely as it develops its thinking.

“You know and I know how long it takes to change a course and change a curriculum and get core subjects approved, and [then to] get student enrolments [and resource] those subjects,” he said.

Raftery said he is “really concerned there’s not enough activity happening with FASEA”. He would like more announcements or “a bit more clarity” from the authority’s announcements.

FASEA chief executive Dr Deen Sanders is scheduled to address the 2017 Personal Finance and Investment Symposium at UTas today.

Join the discussion