The government is working towards creating a single disciplinary body for financial advisers to supersede the existing code monitoring body plan, the assistant minister for financial services has outlined.

When asked directly about the progress of a code monitoring body at Licensee Summit Digital on Tuesday, Minister Jane Hume explained the government is working on a broader plan to “reduce the number of regulatory burdens on financial advisers”.

“How many regulators can go into a financial adviser’s office and audit them in a one year period is quite extraordinary. I am actually surprised some financial advisers don’t spend their lives being audited,” Hume said.

“We actually want to reduce the number of organisations that can infiltrate and impose on a financial adviser’s business so they can get on with what they do best.”

 

The original requirement for a code monitoring body came into existence under the same legislation that established the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority. Under this legislation financial advisers were required to be members of a code-monitoring body by January 1 this year to continue providing advice. Late last year ASIC took action to provide relief under the law for three-years in lieu of a code monitoring body being established.

But it’s the single disciplinary body plan that Hume is now focused on; she said the six month delay in the implementation of Hayne royal commission roadmap will provide time make that the code monitoring solution to be more “fit for purpose”.

A single disciplinary body was something first mentioned by Kenneth Hayne during his interim report in February 2019.

The Financial Planning Association seems to be following the government’s lead by pushing for a single disciplinary body and a licensing regime that’s more focused on individual advisers rather than a regime that relies on licensees to provide regulation oversight. As part of its five-year policy plan released this week the FPA has supported the move towards a single disciplinary body.

Financial advisers should be registered on a single government register, with this register being managed by the single disciplinary body, the FPA’s Policy Platform outlined.

“The single disciplinary body should have primary responsibility for government oversight of the conduct of financial planners, setting mandatory professional standards, investigating potential breaches of mandatory standards and law, and applying discipline,” it noted.

Whether the single disciplinary body is a step towards creating an individual licensing regime for financial advisers to superseded the current Australian Financial Services License system is unclear although it is certain to be on the government’s agenda.

The idea of individual licensing financial advisers was explored in ASIC’s 2017 ‘Report 515 Financial advice: Review of how large institutions oversee their advisers’ which outlines the “dual-agency role” advisers are put in because of the divergent interests held by clients and licensees.

The FPA has also made a fresh call for licensing individuals in its latest policy platform document which is consistent with the Association’s submission to the Hayne royal commission back in May 2018.