While it’s unlikely the Certified Financial Planner designation will itself be recognised under FASEA’s new education pathways, the Financial Planning Association has made its case for qualifications gained by CFPs to count towards other recognised qualifications.

The FPA made its case for recognition of CFP qualifications in a series of submissions to the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority at the end of August. The FPA will now wait for FASEA’s ruling on the matter – which affects the roughly 5700 financial advisers who have completed the study to achieve the designation – expected at the end of September.

“It is our interpretation of the legislation and the [Corporations Amendment] explanatory memorandum that FASEA has the scope to recommend that any form of education, not just university degrees, be recognised as long as they are equivalent to approved tertiary courses,” FPA chief executive Dante de Gori said. “We are not arguing the CFP is a degree, we are arguing that it is equivalent to AQF Level 8 study and should be recognised by FASEA as an equivalent qualification.”

The relevant section of the amendment to the Professional Standards of Financial Advisers Act 2017 – the legislation designed under former financial services minister Kelly O’Dwyer that was the catalyst for bringing FASEA into existence – outlines that the authority must approve bachelor-level or higher degrees or equivalent qualifications for existing providers to meet higher education standards. There’s no direction for the authority to approve designations in the legislation.

However, it’s the mention of “equivalent qualifications” the FPA argues in its submissions to FASEA that it believes should lead to the CFP study being recognised under the new standards.

Arguing for CFP study as an equivalent qualification is a slightly different tack to the case the FPA made in April when it channeled outrage of its members at the fact that the new education pathway standards had ignored the CFP program altogether.

The FPA will rely on FASEA’s interpretation of whether universities are working within the confines of their own standards when they give accreditation for study done as part of the CFP. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will monitor the process.

TEQSA and FASEA signed a memorandum of understanding in April this year and have held initial discussions regarding FASEA’s consultation process and proposed changes to its standards, a TEQSA spokesperson has confirmed with Professional Planner.

TEQSA continues to work closely with FASEA as it develops its approach to accrediting relevant courses, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the FPA is using the work it’s done on mapping CFP education and comparing it to bachelor-degree course work, de Gori said. He added that real examples of accreditation by universities of CFP study for bachelor degrees forms an important part of the FPA’s case for CFP accreditations to be recognised under the FASEA framework.

In July, Professional Planner reported that Deakin University had agreed to give CFPs credit for prior leaning in its bachelor courses. University of NSW and Charles Sturt University have also recognised prior learning under the CFP program in their respective bachelor degrees, de Gori said. These examples are also included in the FPA submission.

Australian universities are registered with TEQSA as self-accrediting authorities, meaning the universities are able to individually decide whether they want to accredit prior leaning. All higher education providers must meet the requirements of the Higher Education Standards Framework at all times in order to be registered with TEQSA.

As it stands today, professional accreditation of a course of study is not required for graduates to be eligible to practise as a financial adviser – like it is for doctors and lawyers, for example – so the course of study does not need to be accredited by a relevant professional body under TEQSA standards.

Aside from the case that qualifications gained by CFPs should be recognised under the FASEA framework, the FPA also lobbied in its submission relating to education pathways that FASEA should recognise all degrees in the same way, and that there be only one bridging course covering the FASEA Code of Ethics and legal obligations.

Smith is the editor of Professional Planner’s print and digital platforms. He is an experienced financial journalist, editor and multimedia producer who has held senior editorial positions both in mainstream press and trade media.
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