While ASIC’s financial adviser registry (FAR) is a useful tool for industry and consumers, inconsistent data collection is ultimately undermining its value according to users.
The adviser qualifications is an area of the FAR causing particular consternation, with inefficient recording formats and confusion around FASEA exam details hindering the process.
Colin Williams, whose HFS Consulting group releases weekly data dumps gleaned from the FAR, calls it a “great tool” that could be a lot better with some refinement.
“Where it falls apart is around the qualifications, especially regarding the FASEA exam,” Williams tells Professional Planner.
“Licensees need to inform ASIC when an adviser passes the exam, yet this is currently not automatically disclosed on the public FAR register,” he explains. “ASIC have the information but it doesn’t come up.”
Many licensees are then subsequently adding the FASEA exam as either ‘Qualifications and Training’ or ‘FASEA Approved Qualifications’, which are designed to show what specific degrees and courses have been completed.
In early March there were 120 advisers who listed the exam as a ‘FASEA Approved Qualification’ and 139 who listed it under ‘Qualifications and Training’, Williams reports. “As you can see it is very messy.”
Asked if there was any reason for the FASEA information provided by advisers to ASIC being withheld, or any plans to release the information, a team member at ASIC responsible for managing the FAR pointed back to FASEA.
“FASEA is the financial adviser exam administrator,” the ASIC representative stated. “It publishes a list of advisers who have passed the exam. An adviser needs to consent to their name being added to the list.”
Licensees intending to amend their listing on the FAR will pay to do so – $32 per update or correction as per the ASIC website. Late fees apply for updates over 30 days after the fact.
“It is the responsibility of AFS licensees to add and update information about their advisers on FAR,” the ASIC team member added. “If an AFS licensee does not maintain information on the Register, they are in breach of their obligations.”
Single source of truth
Williams tempers his criticism of the FAR by noting that it’s the best data tool the industry has, and significantly better than anything in comparable sectors such as mortgage broking.
But the potential is there for it to be markedly improved.
Part of that improvement, he says, could be around the way some of the voluntary information is recorded. Industry association membership, for example, is not a mandatory field and information is written free-form, which means there is a lack of standardisation.
“Some elements are mandatory and some aren’t,” he says. “And then some people write, for example, ‘FPA’, while others put ‘The Financial Planning Association’, so collating the information is a bit confusing.”
FPA chief executive Dante De Gori says the FAR has the potential to be the “single source of truth” for the industry.
“If the data is useable for the industry and the public then people will treat it with respect,” he says.