The major associations are unified in wanting to push out FASEA’s adviser exam deadline after the education authority delayed the release of its guidelines and the start of the exam period, giving advisers 18 months to prepare instead of the promised two years.
After FASEA opened registration for advisers to begin sitting the exam as early as June 20, both the FPA and the AFA signalled their intent to lobby the government to extend the timeline to at least mid-2021, which would give advisers an extra 6 months to prepare and complete the three and a half-hour exam.
Speaking to Professional Planner, AFA chief executive Phil Kewin said “the reality is that advisers need more time to prepare”.
Kewin confirmed an extension of the exam deadline – part of a raft of education standards brought in by FASEA at the behest of the government – would need to come via a legislative amendment, not the education authority.
“It’s logical that an extension be given so advisers are prepared, but I don’t think FASEA have the power to do that,” Kewin explained. “It would be a legislative amendment.”
The coalition’s recent win in the federal election gives Kewin the opportunity to further an existing line of dialogue with the government on the education mandate.
“We were having productive conversations with the government before the election and we would hope to continue those,” Kewin stated.
FPA chief executive Dante De Gori agreed that the industry deserves more time, saying on a call that FASEA’s delays are not the fault of the advisers.
“The advisers have not contributed at all to FASEA’s timetable being shortened, therefore I think its justifiable to ask for more time,” De Gori said.
He recalled the statement made by then Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, on February 9, 2017, in which she promised a two-year window for advisers to complete the exam.
“Existing advisers will have two years, until 1 January 2021, to pass the exam,” O’Dwyer stated, before saying that the two-year period “recognises that existing advisers may need to complete the education requirements on a part-time basis while continuing to service their existing clients”.
FASEA subsequently pushed out the start of the exam period from January this year to June, but did not amend the deadline date to finish.
“It’s not only unfair but unreasonable,” De Gori said.
He explained that from a “common sense perspective”, extending the deadline would not amount to “watering down” the exam or delaying the standards because the entirety of the education mandate requires advisers to be qualified by January, 2024.
“This is just changing the dates within the transition period to accommodate the things that have occurred like FASEA taking more time than was expected,” he continued.
De Gori says feedback and the FPA’s own analysis of the practise exam indicates that the exam itself “still has work to be done”. He suggests the government allows FASEA to extend the deadline for existing advisers and put their immediate focus towards making sure the exam is ready for new advisers.
“Think about it,” he said. “If you’re starting your professional year now you can’t become a planner until you pass this exam, which is obviously not ready, so why not concentrate on getting the exam ready for new entrants this year without the concern or pressure of trying to get 27,000 advisers to start sitting the exam?”
Kewin points out that very few advisers will be keen to take on the early courses in June anyway. “Registration for the June sitting closes May 31, next week. I suspect very few people will be ready to do that… they’ll be taking a gamble.”
Both associations believe an extension between 6 and twelve months would be appropriate, making the deadline for existing adviser to complete the exam either June 30 or December 30, 2021.
The date of the extended deadline, De Gori said, would depend on FASEA’s ability to get the final exam ready. Making the change would not only be fair to advisers but help the education authority, he argued.
“It’s putting a lot of pressure on FASEA and we’re running out of time very quickly,” he said.