FASEA board member Mark Brimble

A member of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority board has spoken publicly for the first time about newly released “legislative instruments” and the summary of the authority’s revised standards framework, which has put a dent in the hopes of industry associations and their members.

At the Financial Planning Academics Forum in Sydney on Monday, FASEA’s Mark Brimble acknowledged that the current release is scant on information. “We reserve the right to work through the details,” he said.

Brimble confirmed FASEA had received more than 800 submissions, plus about 400 individual responses, through its consultation feed.

The summary states that the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA) Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation and the Association of Financial Advisers’ (AFA) Fellow Chartered Financial Planner (FChFP) designation will count for only two credits worth of recognised prior learning (RPL).

Asked whether it felt like the FPA had “lost out a little bit here” during a panel at the forum, Ben Marshan, head of policy and standards at the FPA, replied: “I don’t think there’s enough detail in what’s been released so far to make any of those calls.”

Marshan said he thought the standards were “getting there” and that the FPA was simply glad to have something to report to members at the upcoming FPA Congress, where FASEA chief executive Stephen Glenfield will deliver a keynote address.

CFP holders who attained the designation before 2007 and FChFP holders who got their accreditation before 2014 will not receive the two units of RPL, Brimble confirmed.

This was “unfortunate”, said Phil Anderson, the AFA’s general manager of policy and professionalism, who was also present at the academic forum. He hinted that there may be some ensuing debate on the subject.

“There’s always going to be concern about arbitrary dates that get used in this,” Anderson said.

Marshan was relatively sanguine about the proposed rule. He said the FPA would support those who needed to conduct further study.

“We’ve done a lot of mapping about the education that our members have done and a lot of them do have a degree,” he explained. “A lot of them will just need to do a couple of bridging courses to get through and I think most of them are OK with that.”

Amendments a-plenty

Brimble explained that the guidelines released on Friday were now the subject of a three-week consultation period, after which FASEA would finalise the standards. ­

Other amendments to FASEA’s draft guidelines included the erasure of one of the five education pathways mapped out for advisers. The authority has excluded the ‘existing adviser with related degree plus related postgraduate qualification’ pathway, after the FPA lobbied to simplify the pathways program earlier this year, calling it “unnecessarily complicated”.

Brimble acknowledged the FPA’s influence in the change. He motioned to Marshan when he said, “You may notice that there is one pathway less…which makes it a little bit simpler, for Ben in particular”. However, the FPA’s campaign to have the distinction between relevant and non-relevant degrees scrapped was not reflected in the latest guidelines.

“For existing advisers, the pathway is mapped out,” Brimble said. “[We’re, in effect] sticking with the regime of no degree, non-relevant degree, relevant degree and approved degree.”

FASEA will not give RPL that allows advisers to skip the authority’s own bridging course on the FASEA Code of Ethics and code monitoring bodies, he noted.

“Maybe it’s surprising and maybe not surprising, but the authority’s view is that the bridging course on the FASEA code and code monitoring and so forth will not [receive RPL] in this framework,” he explained.

Conditions around the mandatory adviser exam have been eased, with the duration reduced to 3.5 hours under “limited open book, access to statutory material” parameters. The AFA’s Anderson said this was a welcome change.

“There are some good things to take out of this,” Anderson said. “The exam is certainly heading in the right direction. Many of our members were incredibly anxious about what was proposed – about four hours, no preparation materials…”

A round of cheers

Brimble said the summary released so far was only “the first set of the next version of the standards”, and that “remaining sets of documents” would be released according to a timetable in the guidelines.

He reminded the room of academics and industry stakeholders that, at this point, nothing is set in stone.

“There’s nothing in the curriculum that isn’t challengeable,” he said.

Brimble faced down a number of challenges from the room, including one question as to how many staff members FASEA employs. Enough to get the job done, he said, with help from external resources. Asked whether he felt there was a conflict representing FASEA whilst retaining his role as a professor at Griffith University, he said no.

When Sharon Taylor, chair of the Financial Planning Education Council, spoke about her appreciation for FASEA’s work, she sparked a round of cheers from the crowd.

“I applaud FASEA for what they’ve done,” Taylor said. “They’ve been between a rock and a hard place, and I’ve been really pleased to see what’s come out of it. We should congratulate them and stop bagging them out about what’s been happening.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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