David Sharpe

This month it was announced that the pass rate for the most recent financial adviser exam sitting was 52 per cent. From that we can glean that somewhere between 400 and 500 advisers will come off the register over the next month. If you are in this group, this letter is to you.

I want to share with you all a story of a Financial Planning Association member with whom I spoke recently. Devastated by the result in the recent exam, it meant that after decades servicing his clients, as of this month, he is no longer able to be his clients’ planner. In his 60s with the passion to keep going, having already completed the required additional education (including exams) his passion has been taken from him.

I mention this because when I was a whipper snapper, still wet behind the ears as a planner, he would welcome me into his office and share generously his knowledge. I will never forget that and I write this hoping he will know how much he was valued.

I know that for many experienced planners the repeated stumble at the exam comes with a devastating blow to your confidence and sense of being, as well as to your business.

Your exam results don’t define you. Your exam results don’t measure the longstanding relationships you have had with your clients. They after all are our most important assessors and they have valued your counsel, often for decades.

I would encourage you to stay involved in our great profession. I know that might be difficult as we often build our identity around the fact that we are planners. However an exam result doesn’t mean you don’t have value to add to the profession or consumers. There are many important roles that can benefit from your skills and experience and might not involve providing personal advice.

For those reading that might be thinking to themselves, great those 500 obviously shouldn’t be planners if they can’t pass the exam. I ask you all to reflect when you sat the exam, did you come bouncing out certain that you had passed? My experience talking to planners all around the country is that most had a level of uncertainty and fear and the overriding emotion when getting positive news was relief, rather than re-affirming a fait accompli.

I had one longstanding FPA member call me in tears a couple of years ago after the second sitting of the exam, confiding to me that she is a capable planner but the exam, her first in many years, made her question herself and her ability. She did pass, but for her it wasn’t an experience that positively reaffirmed her sense of self worth as a planner.

I am sure most will also acknowledge that our clients don’t all learn from us the same way. Some prefer a document to read, some like images and others prefer spoken word. So it is with assessments. For some planners, the existing format doesn’t allow them to appropriately demonstrate their knowledge and much to the disappointment and continued advocacy of the FPA, the current legislation doesn’t allow any flexibility.

Whilst we all acknowledge the importance of high professional standards for advice, we must also acknowledge the pain and devastation felt by some of our colleagues for whom serving their clients honestly and professionally has been their life’s passion.

Lastly, for those coming off the register I would like to offer to you the services of FPA Wellbeing, whether you are a member or not. I don’t pretend to be able to fully grasp how you are feeling, but please reach out to the professionals at the end of the phone or at least to a trusted colleague.

Regardless of your choices from here, I hope that you find comfort in knowing how important your work has been in advising and guiding your clients and helping them achieve financial wellbeing. I’m proud to call you colleagues and I’m grateful to you for the support and mentoring you’ve provided to many young planners over the years. I hope we can find a way this profession can continue to benefit from your skills and passion into the future.

David Sharpe is chair of the FPA.