Stephen Jones

The Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones will hear advisers’ concerns first-hand and tackle questions head-on in a series of Q&A sessions next week.

Jones has played his cards close to his chest to date and has not given any clear signals about the government’s intentions in relation to the Quality of Advice Review proposals, except to say he is keen to achieve some quick wins to reduce the administrative and compliance burden on advisers.

Allen’s partner Michelle Levy was appointed to lead the review last March, submitting her final proposals in December.

In that time she consulted extensively, attended industry events, heard a wide range of views and opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly of financial advice regulation, and produced a thoughtful and considered, yet complex, document representing a new blueprint for improving the affordability and accessibility of advice.

Jones had the inestimable pleasure of reading and making sense out of the report over Christmas, and then in mid-February decided the review needed more discussion and exposure.

He kicked off a period of consultation with the industry, highlights of which include a three-city tour to answer advisers’ questions and to hear advisers’ views on the review directly at special breakfast briefing sessions in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne between 13-16 March.

These sessions are facilitated by Conexus Financial, publisher of Professional Planner, and are designed to allow Jones to clearly hear the voice of advisers and other stakeholders in the financial advice profession. At these events, Jones will be open to answering as many questions from the floor as can be taken in the time available.

But most importantly, it’s an opportunity for the profession to present leadership and advocate for the progressive direction of the advice industry.

Penny for your thoughts

It is hoped Jones will develop his thinking and reach a point where he can outline clearly which of the advice review recommendations the government will adopt, which recommendations it will not adopt and, in both cases, why. Then advisers and related providers of financial advice – including superannuation funds and licensees – can get on with the task of implementation.

One of the main tests of the advice review proposals will be whether its recommendations improve the affordability of advice. It is widely acknowledged that the cost of advice stops more people from seeking it, but there is no guarantee reducing the cost to deliver advice will automatically result in greater affordability.

Economics and human nature suggest than in a market of dwindling supply, and where demand means most suppliers pretty much have their hands full, a reduction in the input costs of a service could just as easily lead to fatter margins.

That’s potentially good news for advisers – and some will welcome this opportunity – but it might not be the outcome the review envisages or the Minister desires.

Attendees at the Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne events will have a chance to raise issues and concerns of their own, and to make their voices heard by the Minister. It’s a valuable opportunity in this process of regulatory reform, which sprang from the Hayne Royal Commission.