Colin Williams

The industry has now dipped below 16,000 advisers on the ASIC Financial Adviser Register with the fallout of the adviser exam deadline being felt.

Advisers who qualified for the September adviser exam extension had three extra attempts during 2022 to pass the exam, but it was expected many were using the time to prolong their stay in the industry.

Wealth Data projected the industry would fall below 16,000 after the September deadline, but Adviser Ratings expects the number to drop below 15,000 by the end of the year.

“It’s not surprising,” Wealth Data director Colin Williams tells Professional Planner. “We were all predicting it was going to come under 16,000 during this year. Particularly after the FASEA exam results came through.”

There was a net loss of 444 advisers over the last fortnight which comprised 295 this week and 149 for the previous week, bringing the total of registered advisers on the FAR to 15,908.

“It’s a lot over two weeks,” Williams says. “When they announced advisers could get an extension, it’s fair to say they probably gamed the opportunity. It gave them a nine-month extension to sort out what to do with their book.”

ASIC took over management over the exam after FASEA was disbanded at the end of last year and has overseen the lowest pass rates since the exam first commenced in 2019.

Old loopholes

Williams says the extension presented an opportunity for those advisers to sort out succession planning for their businesses or where to offload their client books.

“If you look at the actual numbers that have fallen off, I’d be surprised if too many tried the exam or tried that hard,” Williams says.

ASIC presented evidence to a Parliamentary Committee in February suggesting 882 advisers on the FAR had not passed the exam, but Williams believed it was greater than that.

“I was of the view there was about 1,400 advisers who failed the exam twice. I suspect there will be more next week.

Licensees have 30 days to report changes to the status of an adviser on the FAR.

“Some have reported early, but we’ve had public holidays, school holidays,” Williams says. “The big licensees tend to be good at reporting and the smaller ones slower and take the whole 30 days.”

The timeline

The FAR’s zenith was before the end of the Hayne Royal Commission when it had 27,929 advisers at the start of the year.

The large majority of departing advisers did so during 2019 and 2020. At the end of FY19 the FAR had dropped to 25,235 and reached 21,697 the following year.

“What happened in 2019 was the banks started offloading [advisers],” Williams says. “That was before the FASEA exam started.”

The industry reached 20,000 advisers in May and the end of the 2021 financial year left the industry with 19,082 advisers.

That dropped below 19,000 in October and remained steady with the FASEA exam deadline approaching at the end of the year.

Adviser numbers dipped below 18,000 thousand in January before the deadline to come off the FAR was completed.

The 17,000 threshold was breached in May after ASIC’s call out to lagging self-licenced advisers that had not updated their registry details. Over 2,500 advisers had departed the industry in financial year 2022.

Williams says the hardest advice sector for losses since 2019 is accounting/limited advice groups.

“These are the groups that have a restricted AFSL and offered advice around SMSF set up and ongoing management. Since 2019 they’re down 75 per cent.”

One comment on “Industry drops below 16k advisers amid exam departures”
    Jeremy Wright

    This is a classic example of where the process takes precedence over the end result.

    Why was it not possible to look at each Adviser and what they have done over the previous years, both good and bad. Take what they have learned over their careers, looking at where their particular field of expertise and advice was focused, then make provision for the Adviser to only be licensed in the areas where they have sufficient knowledge to provide quality service to their clients.

    Instead, the Government went on a witch hunt and effectively branded ALL Advisers as some sort of incorrigible rogues and after much consultation with vested interest groups such as the Education lobbyists, decided that the way to fix unethical behavior, was to throw an Ethics exam (which any unethical person could pass) on to 100% of Advisers, 99% of whom were totally ethical and was a total waste of time.

    I suggest that at each annual audit and going back over all prior audits, there should have been an ASIC requirement, with a series of steps to first recognise, then act upon any breaches of ethical behavior, then have those Advisers removed from practicing.

    Then to really kick all Advisers in the guts and to sneer at all the thousands of hours of prior ongoing education and experience, the Education lobbyists were able to convince the Government that only “THEIR” new style of learning and education modules should be recognised, so we then get lumped with new University degree requirements, which set us down the path of total lunacy.

    So, in this brave new world of Professionalism, we have twelve thousand Advisers gone, most of whom should still be advising and helping their clients.
    We have the cost to get Financial Planning advice, rise to levels so most Australians feel they cannot afford to get advice.
    We have Life and Disability premiums skyrocketing due to most of the risk only specialists leaving the Industry in total frustration, due to the most ridiculous requirements that still exist today, where most of the mandated Education requirements have ZERO to do with the work those Advisers provide.

    Then to top it off, a 2 year responsibility period is imposed where all risk commission revenue can be taken off the Adviser even where the Adviser has ZERO to do with what occurs in the client’s life that requires them to cancel or reduce their covers.
    Then let us reduce the risk Advisers upfront revenue by nearly 50% and triple the time, cost and risk to provide that service.

    And we wonder why, Life / Disability Insurance sales have plummeted?

    Holistic Advisers are not writing Risk New Business, apart from trying to save their angry existing client from walking away in disgust because their Insurance premiums have doubled, which puts in jeopardy the Investment advice, unless remedied.

    So, let us get back to the plummeting Adviser numbers and ask the obvious question.

    What will it take to rescue the Wealth Protection Industry and restore the Life Insurance Companies back to sustainable, long-term profitability?

    I can guarantee the current model WILL NOT.

    What will do the job and I have been banging on about this for years, is to separate risk advice from Investment advice and give risk advice it’s own separate education requirements that only focus on risk topics.

    Then to attract new entrants and more importantly, BRING BACK experienced Advisers who left the Industry, the opportunity to specialise in risk only and if they want to further their careers into full Financial Planning, they can take further ongoing education while they earn and bring back the ability for all Australians the chance to get appropriate Life and Disability Insurances to meet their needs at affordable premiums.

    When you consider that Wealth Protection advice, backed up by Life Insurance Company products, are the foundations from which Australians can build the wealth knowing that if death, illness or injury occurs, then what they are building, will not be blown down like a house of cards when a wind blows in.

    If the Government and our Associations are serious about fixing the real issues, then they need to start listening to people who are at the coal face, have the experience, intelligence and capacity to understand the big picture, so finally we can get the right results to push through what needs to be done.

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