There’s no such thing as a quiet year in financial advice, but 2017 will certainly be remembered as 12 months full of action on the industry’s journey to professionalism.

While a timeline was already in place for the introduction of professional standards, momentum towards putting them in place came with the establishment of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) in March, something that signaled to both advisers and consumers that real change was on its way.

A few weeks later, Minister for Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer signed off on nine FASEA board appointees, with Catherine Walter at the helm. At the time, Professional Planner wrote that the appointees were “independent of both mind and action, and prepared to stand on matters of principle”.

In the following months, the industry was a flurry of speculation and suggestions about how FASEA should handle its mandate. At the Financial Planning Association roadshow in June, the FPA proposed a 100-point qualification system, similar to the one for proving your identity. More recently, academics called for consultation and clarity on FASEA’s thinking.

Just last week, that clarity arrived, with proposed education guidance for existing advisers. FASEA chief executive Deen Sanders said, “What’s apparent to us is [professional standards targets like CPD and a code of ethics], as significant and ambitious as they may be, aren’t really able to be heard properly while the adviser community is deeply anxious about its own education requirements”.

In the meantime, a big question mark hung over the broader financial services community – would there be a royal commission?

The August Professional Planner cover story was an exclusive interview with the leader of the federal opposition, Bill Shorten, who explained why a royal commission was the only answer to reforming the financial services sector.

“Too many problems occur too often. And every time it does, we all get the mea culpas and they say it won’t happen again, until the next time,” Shorten said.

Less than three months later, the government ceded to the persistent calls and announced a Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry would proceed in 2018, led by Ken Hayne.

Professional Planner wrote it was supportive of the move. Despite reform efforts, there is still evidence of pervasive conflicts of interest in financial planning.

Nowhere was this clearer than the case of a client who was advised to take out two life, TPD and income protection policies – one inside super and one personally – despite being able to claim only on one income protection policy. She was also advised to invest $100,000 in managed funds held on a wrap investment platform. Her adviser was degree qualified and licensed by a dealer group essentially owned by a Big Four bank. You can read more about the case here.

Closer to home, at Professional Planner, it’s been a year of great change, too.

Longstanding editor Simon Hoyle stepped into an editor-at-large role, in which he has written for Investment Magazine and Top1000funds, in addition to PP. Simon is now working on a number of investigations, which will feature in our 2018 coverage. As regular readers know, he is still active on the daily news front, too.

In April, I joined Professional Planner as editor after a long hiatus from writing about financial advice. I have been heartened to hear from many of you who share my desire to professionalise financial planning so clients can receive conflict-free, uncomplicated advice to improve their financial outcomes.

In October, the publication celebrated 10 years of agitating for change with a soiree in Sydney, with keynotes from David Gonski, Peter Kell and Bernie Ripoll. In our 10th-anniversary edition, we set out what we think will be the new advice landscape, one in which power and responsibility shift from the institution to the individual.

Finally, just last month, we welcomed Tahn Sharpe, a former associate adviser who brings passion, enthusiasm and technical knowledge to the role of journalist. Tahn’s appointment rounds out the Professional Planner team.

In 2018, we look forward to bringing you more stories that challenge prevailing conflicts and help planners operate in a professional world.

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