Advisers looking to ease their FASEA burden by overlapping exam study with undergraduate degree study may be hampered by a lack of appropriate products on the market, the SMSF Association’s Peter Hogan says.

The Self-managed Superannuation Fund Association’s head of technical says that, while advisers could, theoretically, kill two birds with one stone by sitting the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority’s mandated exam while also studying for their educational requirements, this may not be so easy in practice.

“The problem with that is the timeframe for education institutions to get through the approval processes that a university or [registered training organisation] RTO needs to [complete] to get a subject” available in the market, Hogan says.

FASEA’s standards summary, released in November, confirms that advisers will need to pass a 3.5-hour, “limited open book” exam by January 1, 2021. Education standards must be met by January 1, 2024.

The authority released an examination legislative instrument last Friday, advising that the exam will be developed and administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research and cost advisers $540 plus GST.

“The exam will cover financial advice regulatory and legal obligations, applied ethical and professional reasoning and financial advice construction and will be conducted in a range of capital and regional centres,” FASEA announced in a media release.

Hogan says “there is some overlap, no doubt”, between the topics covered in the exam and the diploma courses. The issue, he says, is that not all the topics are readily available as accredited graduate diploma subjects yet.

He uses the example of the exam competency area dealing with financial advice regulation and legal obligations related to topics such as the Corporations Act, privacy and tax law.

“There is, we believe, not a course on chapter 7 of the Corporations Act – the legal obligations – in the marketplace at the moment,” Hogan says. “That would need to be built and go through the vetting and accreditation process before a course could go on.”

While there is no doubt those courses will be available before the graduate diploma requirements are due in 2024, they may not all be here in time for the exam in 2021, he says.

Hogan is presenting a seminar at the 2019 SMSF Association National Conference in Sydney on February 20 called “FASEA – what do you need to do now?”. He says there will be live polling during the session to engage with advisers and ask how the association can best help them prepare for the education and exam requirements.

“One of the things I’m very keen on is to have targeted webinars around the subject matter of the exams,” Hogan says, “as well as any other things that we can produce and deliver within reason, [considering] the membership and time frames that we have.”

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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