Phil Anderson

Consumer protections should be proportionate to the risk for the consumer otherwise simple advice will never be affordable, the Association of Financial Advisers has argued in its submission to the Quality of Review.

AFA chief executive Phil Anderson tells Professional Planner the fixed cost of financial advice at the client level is so significant that ongoing arrangements are the only solution for advisers currently.

“Rather than getting advice via a long document that would take six weeks to provide, what if we could do it in front of them and leave them with something of material value for a smaller fee? We have to be prepared to move away from the paradigm that we’re currently in and not feel constrained by it.”

There needs to be a model where complexity and consumer risk is low, Anderson says, and simple advice can be given at a reasonable cost.

“If you have someone who wants to get some really basic advice – like where should I put my super and how much insurance should be in my group super arrangement – how do you get really basic advice?”

Anderson says the goal of the review should be to understand what clients value and are willing to pay for.

“We’ve had government intervention to introduce significant additional consumer protection measures and resulting in material additional costs, however is that something clients want and are prepared to pay for?”

For clients who do want a basic service, Anderson says forcing them to go through the full statement of advice procedure and then the annual renewal process doesn’t make sense.

“That adds up to significant dollars just to get an arrangement in place and then to maintain it. It’s not client centric.”

The principle of it

The submission argued a principles-based regime alone is not the answer to the current challenges with regulatory uncertainty.

Anderson acknowledges there have been discussions in the industry about going to a principles-based regime, but if that happens he believes it needs to develop in a way that makes things better not worse.

He cites Section 912A(1)(a) of the Corporations Act as a principles-based piece of legislation that offered insufficient certainty.

“It can be used in a very broad context both in a surveillance and enforcement sense so we don’t want a principles-based regime that provides no certainty in a punitive regulatory intervention environment,” Anderson says.

Sweet relief

In its submission the AFA called for the removal of safe harbour steps or at least step G, which has been suggested by Anderson as well as another financial services consultant, and the ASIC record keeping class order.

It also recommended fixing fee disclosure statements and annual renewals by suspending the client consent obligations for three years and having the obligation automated by enabling one signature per client.

There is a high level of duplication between financial services guides, SOAs and FDSs, the submission stated, with the suggestion of a complete removal of FSGs and design and distribution obligations.

With all these recommendations, Anderson says there’s no silver bullet.

“There’s going to be a lot of things that can potentially make a material difference and we want to see technology and regulatory certainty make a real difference.”

One comment on “Consumer protections should be proportionate to risk: AFA”
  1. Avatar
    Jeremy Wright

    If the foundations of a building start to subside or crumble, then the whole structure is in trouble and needs fixing.

    Cracked walls being repaired will only crack again if the foundations are not properly remediated and the longer it goes on, the higher the damage bill to fix it.

    Financial Planning is the same. Wealth Protection is the foundations upon which everything else is built upon.

    Therefore, in order to remedy the issues plaquing the whole industry, we need to start with fixing the advised Life Insurance sector first, as that is reaching a point of the foundations collapsing.

    I have harped on about how to fix this easily and efficiently on numerous occasions and to date there has been no alternate solution that will work, so NOW is the time for Treasury and the Government to make the first steps and I am prepared to debate with all and sundry about the pro’s and con’s of all solutions put forward.

    What the Advised Life Insurance sector and the Life Companies themselves do not have, is time, as every day that passes, more Advisers leave, claims go up, New Business goes down, existing clients continue to get slogged with premium increases to offset losses and it is a road to perdition unless things change.

    The solution is simple and can be enacted quickly, efficiently and cost effectively, with NIL downside, so what are we waiting for?

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