Education providers are forging ahead with financial planning courses as the industry waits for the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority to release its final guidelines.
It means their courses may need to be reshaped when the new education mandate is released. Two months have passed since submissions for consultation closed.
“We literally just have to go ahead,” says Katherine Hunt, Lecturer in Financial Planning at Griffith University. “I teach an ethics course in the Masters of Financial Planning and I have been teaching according to the draft code of conduct since we gained access to it.”
FASEA was established in 2017 to implement reforms in the Corporations Act related to raising the professional, ethical and educational standards for advisers. In March, draft guidance on the education pathways for degrees and equivalent qualifications was released, along with draft guidance on the proposed code of ethics.
Subsequent announcements detailed a total of 10 consultation forums in the following months, which included further draft consultation papers on the proposed examination, professional year and continuing professional development requirements.
While speculation had swirled in recent months that FASEA had planned to release its final recommendations at the end of September, that date has come and gone and a spokesperson for the statutory body has confirmed there is no set date for release.
“FASEA is unaware of where the September date has come from, given no announcement has been made on this,” the spokesperson says.
Griffith’s Hunt says that for education providers it is business as usual and the only option is to keep teaching the proposed guidelines to advisers who want to make an early start on the education mandate.
“We teach [according to] the draft, and when it’s not a draft we’ll start teaching that, alongside the FPA [Financial Planning Association] and AFA’s [Association of Financial Advisers’] existing codes,” she explains.
Over at Western Sydney University, director of academic program (accounting and financial planning) Michelle Cull has been offering ‘Challenge Units’ – which give advisers the option to attempt cheaper and faster accreditation in shorter timeframes by completing assessments – for two quarters already; however, she admits that uncertainty about exactly what should be in the courses makes it difficult to tailor them appropriately.
“I’m just waiting on getting some more information so we can work on getting our programs structured correctly,” Cull says.
She uses the ethics course as an example of the uncertainty.
“In our master’s of financial planning, we already have a unit called ‘communication and ethics for financial planners’,” she explains. “Well, is that going to meet the requirements of FASEA or not? That’s still what’s up in the air and we may need to reshape that when the guidelines come out, which is quite frustrating.”
Brian Knight, chief executive of Kaplan Professional, says advisers and education providers “aren’t waiting for FASEA, they’re getting in now”.
“We’ve always had an ethics subject in our financial planning master’s course that we think is pretty good,” Knight says. “Once we have the FASEA guidance, we’ll amend the course and move to that. We’ll keep going and shape the courses around the changes as they happen.”
A much bigger task
Ron Bird, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Technology Sydney, says the FASEA planning process is “a bit of a mess”, but that hasn’t stopped UTS from launching a new financial planning degree, which has been approved only “in the last weeks”.
Like Bird, Cull thinks FASEA’s processes are flawed. She points to a slow start and a lack of resources as reasons for the delay.
“I do think things could have started to happen a bit earlier on, and it seems like now they’re rushing to meet the deadline,” she says. “It’s a much bigger task than people imagined it would be and it was very slow going in the beginning.”
Despite her frustration, Cull expresses some understanding of the challenge FASEA is facing.
“FASEA [members] deserve some credit here, too,” she says. “They’ve tried to be consultative and get through to the different stakeholders and that takes time, even though some people are feeling that there hasn’t been enough consultation. On the other hand, you don’t want things to take too long.”