FPA chief executive Dante De Gori

As the industry nears the end of an eventful year, Financial Planning Association chief executive Dante De Gori says the 2018 FPA Professionals Congress will give advisers the chance to sit down and interact with the regulators who are, in many ways, deciding their professional fate.

De Gori says it has been a “difficult, challenging year” for FPA members, largely due to the effects of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry and “the ongoing process of determining what education standards will ultimately be”.

He says the FPA has made this year’s congress as topical and relevant for advisers as possible, which means putting them in front of representatives of the regulatory bodies that are exerting so much influence on the way they service their clients and run their businesses.

“It’s really important that (FPA) members interact with the regulators and it’s also important for regulators to actually hear about what’s happening from planners on the ground,” De Gori says.

De Gori will open the congress on Wednesday afternoon, when former Liberal Party treasurer Peter Costello will deliver the keynote speech.

Stephen Glenfield, the recently appointed chief executive of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA), will speak at the event, as will representatives from ASIC and the newly formed Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

“The program looks at the issues we’re all talking about, like the royal commission, education and ethics,” De Gori continues. “Many of the areas we’re looking at are either implementation of reform that’s occurred or areas of reform that are going to occur.”

The year that was

As the industry reaches a crossroads on education reform, De Gori tells Professional Planner the FPA is proud of the way its members have engaged on issues, with more than 4000 members “contributing to the feedback loop”.

His only regret is that the FPA can’t provide more certainty and clarity for members on what they need to do and when they need to do it.

“I wish I could have been able to do that for them,” De Gori says. “But some of this stuff is out of our control.”

He says the argument around education was never about whether it’s needed – “not one member has said to me they don’t support raising standards” – but around the “quantum” or level or education required.

“We’re running a debate around the margins here,” De Gori says.

Last Friday, FASEA announced that advisers who completed the FPA’s five-unit Certified Financial Planner designation after 2007 would be eligible for two course credits under the new education standards.

Regarding the FPA’s recent expression of interest in becoming a FASEA code-monitoring body, De Gori says that is a “natural role” for a professional association to play, especially one with such a large membership base. The FPA has more than 14,000 members.

“We also believe we have an obligation to provide a solution for members who need to be registered with the code-monitoring body in order to continue practising,” De Gori explains. “It’s not a choice, it’s a requirement.”

Fewer fundies, more advisers

De Gori notes there will be fewer institutional representatives, or “fundies”, at this year’s congress and more planners.

“Historically, the conference style has had a lower representation of practitioners and more representation of fund managers and business development managers,” De Gori explains. “But over the last four or five years, it’s changed and become more practitioner-focused. It’s a professionals’ congress not a conference.”

Almost 1300 people have registered for the event, he notes, and more than 500 of those hold the CFP designation. De Gori says this is one of the biggest conferences the FPA has ever staged.

“In fact,” he says, “I would argue that it’s one of the largest gatherings of financial planners in the world.”

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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