Eureka Whittaker Macnaught's Harry Baker and Greg Cook

Harry Baker had his eye on completing FASEA’s professional year before the requirement even became a part of the Corporations Act.

“I was thinking about it all the way from university,” he says. “Even though it wasn’t official, I knew it was coming and started doing extra study.”

The 25-year old was the first to sign up for FASEA’s professional year (PY), and after completing the 1600 hours of required training and passing the adviser exam, FASEA has confirmed Harry as the first adviser to qualify under the new regime.

The achievement has also earned Baker a nod from FASEA CEO Stephen Glenfield, who congratulated him on being “first among a vanguard of young professionals entering financial advice”.

“The framework, education and mentorship component of the PY program really helps to enable young advisers like Harry to begin their careers on a strong footing,” Glenfield tells Professional Planner.

Baker admits there were a few hitches along the way. Being late to register for one of the exams meant the 12-month program took 15 months to complete, and a change in licensees for his employer, Eureka Whittaker Macnaught, threw another spanner in the works.

Baker also moved from the Sydney office back up to his native Queensland during the year, which meant switching mentors – or ‘supervisors’ in FASEA parlance – from industry veteran Greg Cook in Sydney to Sally Bell in the firm’s Queensland office.

The country’s newest financial adviser says it “feels good” to be qualified, and gives credit to both Cook and Bell for guiding him through the process. “They’ve both been great,” he says. Baker is now in the process of taking on the clients of retiring adviser Peter Mill, who Baker worked alongside 4 and a half years ago in his initial client services role. “A lot of his clients already know my name,” he says.

For Cook, who has been instrumental in driving Baker’s development, the PY has also been a learning process. “The supervising is a new thing for us as well,” Cook says.

More out than in

The significance of Baker’s qualification has a lot to do with the current state of the financial planning industry.

Many advisers are leaving the industry due to tougher education standards, a bruising Royal Commission, the institutional exit from advice and a raft of ensuing regulatory changes that have put the squeeze on margins. From a high of 30,000 in 2018, the number of advisers is now about 24,000 and predicted to drop a lot further.

Few are lining up to replace these advisers. According to HFS Consulting director Colin Williams the number of ‘provisional advisers’ currently on ASIC’s register is 28. Licensee Count Financial has three, six other licensees have two and several other licensees have one.

Williams says the retreat of the institutions, in particular, has stemmed the flow of trainees and put the pressure on smaller licensees to bring in new advisers.