ASIC's Joanna Bird

The corporate regulator says advice standards have already improved in the lead up to the Quality of Advice Review, with ASIC’s executive director of financial services and wealth Joanna Bird remarking upon the industry’s improvement in the wake of historical reform.

Appearing at insurer AIA’s online Adviser Summit webinar Tuesday afternoon, Bird gave a ten minute summary of ASIC’s recent work in advice before being posed a series of questions around the state of the industry in the lead up to the review, which is scheduled to hand over its findings before the end of the year.

Asked if she had seen improvements in advice during her time in the sector – Bird previously ran the regulator’s advice division – the executive responded with a resounding “Yes!”.

“Definitely, I think I have,” Bird said. “We’ve seen improvements in the quality of advice, and just the whole professionalism and approach of the industry has really changed.”

The Quality of Advice Review, recommended by Kenneth Hayne as part of the Royal Commission final report, is set to encompass a broad slate of current and historical issues in advice. As well as reviewing Hayne’s recommendations including the abolition of grandfathered commissions, the review will audit the Life Insurance Framework laws, the Access to Affordable Advice Project previously in ASIC’s hands, the role of industry associations, wholesale investor definitions and a host of other topics.

On top of its already stacked agenda, there is a chance that by the time it kicks off – on an earlier session financial services minister Jane Hume said an announcement on who would lead the review was “imminent” – it might also include the stalled review of Standards 3 and 7 within the Code of Ethics and the tabled “experience pathway” reform to education standards.

According to Bird, the industry has come a long way down the road to professionalism even before the Quality of Advice Review has begun.

“At various points we’ve actually tried to track through surveillance whether we can actually quantify the amount of change… it’s actually quite different,” she said.

“But anecdotally, every time I ask our team – and I ask the people that review advice – whether they’re seeing a change over the years, the answer is ‘yes’.”‘