Last week, I wrote that education doesn’t make an adviser experienced and experience doesn’t mean an adviser necessarily has the right credentials to meet the expectations of the public when financial advice becomes a profession.

I didn’t realise at the time I was nosediving into a landmine.

While I knew the opinion might be unpopular, I did not think some readers would view it as an assault on their past education or experience. That was far from my intention. I was not commenting on the validity of advisers’ past education; rather, I was saying consistency in qualification levels is fundamental to advice being perceived as a profession.

What last week did give me a renewed appreciation of is just how pronounced the anxiety and discontent is among advisers who already have tertiary qualifications or specialist accreditations. It’s a topic our regular adviser columnist, Max Newnham, spoke to this week in an opinion piece about the perception of qualifications attained many years ago.

The profile of these advisers looks something like this: they are degree or diploma-qualified, they’ve sought additional accreditations in specialist areas, such as self-managed super funds or aged-care advice and they are Certified Financial Planners. They are unsure but believe they will have to undergo additional education to meet new standards that the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority will set.

We don’t know how many advisers fall into this category. Neil Kendall, chair of the Financial Planning Association, says most of the “consternation” over new standards is coming from the aforementioned group. They are in an unenviable position but, as Kendall says, it is important not to jump the gun.

Too much misinformation

“First thing [advisers need to do] is read the guidance on what FASEA is actually saying,” he advises. “There are people saying they have wasted their time, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

Much misinformation is being spread, based on misinterpretations, and it’s unhelpful for advisers trying to make considered decisions about their futures.

One misconception, which has come up surprisingly frequently, is that FASEA has finalised its position on education for existing advisers, including bridging options and the maximum age of relevant degrees. Another is that there are hidden meanings in some of FASEA’s statements. Decodings of these supposed hidden meanings are circulating, further unnecessarily stimulating anxiety.

In truth, while the proposed guidance FASEA released late last year should give a good idea of the level of education required, there are still details to be finalised. There is a consultation period to go through, during which feedback will be sought and considered.

Also, no formal document about bridging courses has been released. FASEA has said it released proposed guidance on this point earlier than expected partly to encourage education providers to make options available.

Finally, there is also still a loud group of advisers who appear to believe that their threats will lead to minimum education standards being scrapped entirely. Not only does that undermine the collegiality of the profession, it’s also pointless.

Waiting for answers is unpleasant. But forming the wrong conclusion based on speculation is a waste of time.

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