Deborah Kent (left), Michelle Cull and Brian Knight

Tertiary providers have been left hung out to dry from the experience pathway after spending years investing in financial advice qualifications to help fulfill the professional standard.

The Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones released draft legislation for the education carve-out for advisers with 10 years’ experience and a clean record which failed to include a sunset clause which was proposed by the top professional associations.

Integra Financial Services co-founder Deborah Kent, who worked on the board for FASEA, tells Professional Planner the universities put in tremendous work into designing advice courses that matched the requirements laid out by the authority.

“There’s an awful lot of work that went into it and what will happen is they’re not going to get the numbers now if this new pathway goes through for new entrants particularly,” Kent says.

“It’s a shame. Some universities have put together some really good courses that may not get the numbers. The commercial reality is do [they] keep running it?”

Candidly, Kent describes the carve out as a “step too far”.

“I truly get why people want an experience pathway but to allow somebody to just go through the gate with no extra education than RG146 which is four subjects is nonsense,” she says.

“I just can’t see how, if we want to treat ourselves as professionals, if we can allow this to happen where advisers with just 10 years’ experience and a clean record don’t have to do the ethics course.”

She adds that making it easier for advisers with experience to achieve the pathway is fair, but to have them do nothing waters down professionalism.

“Will it bring advisers back into the industry? I don’t know,” she says. “A lot of the advisers who have left couldn’t get through the exam.”

Long road to ruin

Reflecting on the path to education reform, Western Sydney University associate dean Michelle Cull was disappointed with the Jones’ proposal.

“I just can’t believe how far we’ve come and now it’s gone backwards,” Cull says.

She adds the experience pathway won’t make an immediate difference for how WSU approaches financial planning education. “Everything takes time. It’s not something we’ll rush.”

She notes for many universities including WSU, these qualifications were being offered before any education mandate.

“In saying that, we had to do a lot of work [for FASEA approval],” Cull says.

“We put a lot of resources into ensuring that our current programs met the accreditation requirements. For example, we had to have the compulsory ethics subject.”

Cull remains optimistic the degrees at WSU will continue but nothing is set in stone.

“I wouldn’t be able to say [definitively] until a review is done,” she says, referring to regular reviews conducted for all courses by the university.

“We have seen a big increase in the undergraduate pipeline. That’s been good for new entrants. For existing providers, there will always be advisers that want to do more.”

However, Cull notes there has been a lack of demand since the experience pathway was announced.

“A better way to put it is that we didn’t see the rapid increase that we were expecting,” she says. “A lot of advisers have held off.”

Culls hints there will be some higher education institutions impacted more than others.

“There’s a huge range in the cost of these additional qualifications,” Cull says.

“I have wondered how much that has played into the choice of what financial advisers will do, what they’ll study and where they’ll study. There can be big differences there.”

Kaplan Professional CEO Brian Knight alluded to comments made by the Minister that five million Australians need advice which must be serviced by the under 16,000 advisers left in the industry.

Knight understands why the Minister has kept his word on a pre-election promise. “With the experience pathway, I get it,” he says.

“We agree that they need to keep some of these people given there’s the shortages and departures, and slow uptake of new entrants.”

However, Knight says what has annoyed some advisers is the notion that experience can be considered part of the education pathway.

“It’s an exception to the education pathway because it shouldn’t lose sight of the fact the education is the core of any profession,” Knight says.

“When they say we are equating 10 years’ experience with a degree, that’s really wrong because it’s nowhere near it. Most of these people have RG146 which is the much maligned do it in a day program.”

Knight empathises with the advisers who committed the time, money and effort to “work their butt off”.

“They are really peeved,” Knight says.

“I get they have to fulfill the election promise, but what they’ve created at the moment is a win/lose. What they should do is give some more recognition to those that have [completed the education].”

Positive re-enforcement

While a 10-year sunset was rejected by the Minister despite support from the top associations, Knight described it as a “negative” response and suggested perhaps there is a way to show positive reinforcement for advisers who have pursued education.

Using an example of a 35-year-old who could hypothetically be eligible, Knight says the negative is they could be working for another 30-plus years without further education.

“If that person got recognition as they’re a higher-level adviser because they were education so when people went looking for advisers these are the guys that have a gold star. Then there’s an incentive for those people to do some education.”

The ASIC Financial Adviser Register records the qualifications a planner holds, but for consumers viewing it via the MoneySmart website it does not feature any prominence.

Wealth Data founder Colin Williams, who received data from ASIC showing 40,000 consumers a month accessed the website, also noted it doesn’t adequately differentiate approved degrees.

Cull says she hopes advisers will continue to pursue study because she has found it is valued by consumers.

“At the end of the day consumers are going to be able to see qualifications on the register, she says. “Based on my research, consumers want to go those that have qualifications.”

Silver linings

Despite the criticism, Cull, Knight and Kent all supported the proposals to allow the Minister of the day to use their discretion to approve degrees for new entrants, as well as allowing advisers who are registered tax agents to no longer meet the additional education requirements to be a qualified tax relevant provider.

“That’s a no brainer,” Knight says, referring to the Ministerial discretion. “The courses were done by FASEA so inflexibly and so rigid it was just knocking out people.”

Kent supported the proposal but stands by the work the FASEA board did to approve new degrees during their tenure.

“There are elements of degrees that probably could be approved back in our [FASEA’s] time but we didn’t – we stuck very closely to what was financial planning,” Kent says.

“Personally, we put a lot of work into approving these [degrees] – the perception is that we didn’t – but I stand by the fact we put a lot of work into it. If you’re going to be approved for a financial planning degree, then it has to look and feel like that.”

Kent points out FASEA was required to follow the guidelines laid out for the authority and the degree mandate had a strict focus on financial planning.

“If someone has a degree that deals with only financial markets, but doesn’t deal with superannuation, estate planning, insurance… then can you call it an equivalent?”

Knight laments that the education sector perhaps didn’t do enough to push for a better regime.

“The previous government asked educators to come up with an education solution for advisers,” Knight says. “We had a rigid eight-subjects to form a degree. We should’ve been smarter about that.”

Cull says when the education standard was announced the government instructed providers to give credit for certain things, like CFP accreditation.

“It’s almost like we were told what we would give credit for,” Cull says.

“What’s disappointing is that from the outset, if it had been structured differently, this work experience requirement would’ve been able to be dealt with back when the legislation went through because that’s what universities do.”

12 comments on “Education carve-out pressures tertiary sector”

    I received the following from a young soon to be planner, who has met the education, and about to do the Fasea exam.

    “Quite a controversial topic isn’t it. It’s only the old guard who have any interest in the carve-out, to the detriment of the rest of us. As you point out, a single category of haves & have nots does nothing for consumer clarity, and when there is doubt with no way to distinguish between planners, perceptions of the group will take on the attributes of the have nots. A shot in the foot.”

      Phil Oxenbridge

      Peter, Peter, Peter. I really do not understand why you have taken it upon yourself to promote discourse and division. This is actually promoting an unprofessional circumambience. One young person, very disrespectful and encouraging professional discordance, refers to his experienced seniors as “the old Guard”. If it wasn’t for these old “professional” (YES! Professional) planners, there would be no financial planning industry/profession. It is those, like yourself that encourages a spirit of discord and dis-harmony in the ranks among the new entrants, who have no life experience, and will depend on the “old Guard” to give them employment, and opportunities. These are those that created the applied knowledge that the newbies are learning from textbooks. Don’t encourage such disrespect from an ignorant standpoint. We should all be doing our part together to encourage the comradeship inherent in all prominent professions. Lack of working and pulling together is more a show of unprofessionalism than is older existing advisers not holding a degree. Please do real research on the historical aspects of professionalism before promoting views that only succeed in tearing down our great profession…!

    Phil Oxenbridge

    I refer my comments to Deborah Kent and those that follow her logic. to be educated in a degree qualification is not a prerequisite for the existing constituents of an emerging profession. It NEVER has been. Not in any of my studies of any profession’s history. Nursing, a more modern attempt at professionalizing via raising the education requirements was a more modern interpretation of what it is to professionalize… there is no evidence that I’m aware of that requiring existing nurses to undertake undergraduate degrees, succeeded in making the occupation a profession. As any students of the professions will attest to, the requirement to force existing members of an industry to undergo undergraduate or post-graduate studies to retain their practice in a professionalizing occupation is not in line with any other profession, including Medicine, Law, Engineering, accounting etc. So WHY do so many attempt to force their interpretation or view that its “unprofessional” for existing members to “not” upgrade to a degree, in line with “new” entrants? This is an inaccurate interpretation of the professionalization process (whatever that process might entail, or whatever might be the interpretation of “profession”). So before so many influential voices continue to have a say in these important matters, please check your historical facts, or if it is difficult for you to do so, please ask somebody who does know.
    On another matter, in the spirit of true professional self-concept, those that show the traits and attributes of professionalism, love to learn, continually endeavoring to improve themselves. They don’t have to be legislated for. But to say “You must hold this certification, or you can’t practice…” is in itself, unprofessional!
    As far as universities go, I do not believe that Universities designed degrees and courses, just to accommodate existing advisers, If that is true, then they need to undertake one of their own business management courses. What a foolish thing to think that the academics assisting our future are that short-sighted.

    Jeremy Wright

    There will always be arguments from both sides of the equation that have merit.

    However, the end result in the real world and views expressed from experienced practitioners who are at the coal face, who also have the vision and common sense to see and to project what positives and negatives will come from proposed interventions / Regulatory imposts and what is the best outcome for the end consumer, is the most important consideration, though is rarely mentioned or discussed amongst the vested interest groups or idealistic utopian visionaries who believe that nothing can progress without a degree or a Lawyer being part of the process.

    For anyone to denigrate Advisers who have provided excellent service and advice to their clients for decades, though do not pass or agree with the current new age / new vogue thinking pushed by Education lobbyists and others who deny experience and the thousands of hours of ongoing studies every Adviser has done, should be ashamed of yourselves.

    This elitism, is not beneficial for the vast majority of Australians.

    In fact, it has been clearly shown to be the opposite, with now millions of Australians feeling Financial Advice falls into the same affordability sphere as the Legal Profession and has similar outcomes where you pay a fortune to attain advice and the written word makes as much sense as latin does to the uneducated / unwashed majority of the population who must be protected with legalize wording to ward off evil spirits.

    Merit and longevity, when combined with experience and loyalty from clients, seems so, “old school” in todays world that calls and demands for the new cancel culture to be enforced if the woke brigade are not obeyed.

    Setting up clearly defined rules, requirements and qualifications based on WHAT YOU DO, makes it an easier path to follow and even provides an incentive to join, which is the total opposite of the current maze of complexity that drives people away.


    Unfortunately, we have always been an industry of carve outs and grandfathering, all at the expense of professionalism.
    I have heard the professionalism “mantra” ever since I have been a member of the FPA, which is nearly 30 years.
    And yet here we still are, getting closer, finally, yet it will move away from us with the experience proposal.

    There are several parts to the main argument which is a about Professionalism.

    • The experience pathway being proposed.
    • What constitutes a Professional and the Professional Designation.
    • What should the then Profession look like.

    We are currently at a “cusp” in our industry, but it could be said we have always been at a cusp, but with no intentional fortitude or leadership to reach the summit of Professionalism and be a Professional and work in a Profession.
    We have been constantly held back , inaction on the industry’s part, perhaps fear, fear for the associations losing members and seen to be elitist.
    The majority of planners have met the Fasea or are on a pathway and nearly 9/10 have passed the Fasea exam, but agenda and policy being set by the regulators, numerous reviews, and influence from the many non-individual participants, some would say with vested interests, of the industry stifling progress.

    The experience pathway being proposed.

    There has been many articles, comments, and input regarding the experience pathway with a submission underway currently. There is no need to reiterate the many reasons for looking at the experience pathway, other than that it may address the further decline in advisor numbers, or even allow advisors who have exited, either by failing the Fasea exam, or their own protests against the education standards, a pathway back into the industry or being maintained in the industry.
    But we have always been an industry of “carve outs and grandfathering” which really has appeased a vocal minority, and maintained membership for the numerous associations which need the membership to exist financially. You know the ones by their war cry and resistance, “I’ve got 20 years’ experience and I don’t need a piece of paper as I am a professional”.
    All “carve outs and grandfathering” do is to distort the true education standards of the industry, stifle any inroads to professionalism, and allows all the regulators, and vested industry groups to decry the lack of professionalism and education standards when there is one of the many reviews that seemingly occur at regular intervals, which inevitably leads to more compliance, more regulation and recently the Fasea exam and education standards, and the cycle continues.
    Vertical integration, banks, sales models etc were the past main causes and who to say the future causes may still be vertical integration from the industry and super funds giving advice, or MDA providers perhaps and from the lower educated depending on what is passed.

    The proposed pathway also means the Fasea exam has to be passed, the very exam that has caused the exit along with those who can’t or won’t meet the education standards anyway.

    What constitutes a Professional and the Professional Designation.

    There are many definitions of a “Professional”, but the common one I subscribe to is:

    • Meeting the prescribed Education Standards for the Financial Planning Profession which are now in place.
    • Having had to pass a prescribed entry exam which in our case is now the FASEA exam.
    • Adhering to a code of conduct (this has been set by Fasea) as well by the FPA, AFA etc if you are a member (13 Associations apparently) which covers:
    o Experience
    o Competence
    o Behaviour and conduct
    • And other factors such as peer enforcement.

    What about CFP:

    Look at the mess of CFP. No wonder Fasea didn’t rate it. You had grandfathered layers right up to those where the level sits now.
    In the 1990s accountants only had to do the first and last unit to receive a CFP.
    What do most advisers prize these days?
    For those that have done the Grad Dip and even the masters of FP, I would assume most would rate their newly acquired qualifications higher.

    What should the then Profession look like.

    The restricted term “Financial Planner etc” was brought in for the primary object was to restrict this to those authorised to provide financial advice and be listed on the ASIC register and also for consumer protection.
    QAR and Minister Jones are leaning towards where Super funds etc will be able to provide scoped, scaled, or limited advice. If they meet the criteria above, then they will be able to use the restricted term as well.
    The restriction of the term should only be for those that are on the ASIC register and fully meet the Fasea education standards. Otherwise, we are back to the handout of CFPs again from past times where no one can tell the difference especially the very people where the protection is needed being the consumers.
    For those that don’t meet the Fasea education and thereby not being able to use the restricted term but are on the ASIC register, then there needs to be a term for them. This is like Lawyer and Conveyancer.
    In NSW there are two classes of real estate agents, Class 1 and Class 2. Class 2 allows you only to work in the industry as an employee only, while Class 1 allows you to run and own a business, employ people, and operate a trust account. Each are recognisable and are stated on the licence which must be on public display. This is a legal requirement.

    Why not have a secondary term like “Associate” or “intermediate” or “Affiliate” as a prefix or postfix to Financial Planner/adviser.
    If there is a planning group created that will be factored around the experience pathway, then they should not be allowed to use the restricted terms.
    Otherwise, it will all end up like the CFP again where we can claim the same level, but the disparity is confusing and wide.
    And when there is an issue, we will be grouped as “financial planners”.

    Remember there is no membership category like “I don’t want to do the study to be a lawyer, but I have 25 years’ experience, but I want to say I am a member of the Law Society” category.

    And for the record, I am over 60 with over 36 years of experience, received only three Fasea credits, did the Grad diploma, and also completed the Master of Financial Planning in June 2021, and currently completing a final unit in Masters of Law(Bus).

      Gerry Lenihan

      You write a nice summary Peter of our industries past and how you fear the cycle of grandfathering.
      You miss a few important points:
      1) The experience pathway is a specific carve out for existing advisers who meet the criteria. It’s not for new entrants or those who don’t meet the criteria, they have to gain the “professional” standards you desire.
      2) What’s the best for the public right now? And I mean NOW. There are 1,000,000 consumers looking for an adviser. How do you suggest that issue is addressed? How many NEW advisers will it take in the industry to satisfy that need?
      3) The fact that you can achieve the education you list is commendable. Do you think that means everyone can do the same? That everyone has your situation? If only life and Government policy was individually based. I would encourage you to think outside your own situation.

    David Harris

    Isn’t it Ironic that the people teaching us about conflicts are now desperately trying to protect theirs. They don’t understand that the mandatory degree will see another 25% exit from the business which will be catastrophic and leave the industry too small to attract capital investment and their degree will be pretty much useless. We will be far better served by putting our resources into attracting more new people to the industry and by keeping as many as possible advising to keep us all viable


      Hi David,
      As survey done in the regional area where I live, was done over a year ago, showed that over 87% of advisers had met or would met the education standards. This was supported by Financial Adviser Register which shows the qualifications of each adviser..
      A further question showed overwhelmed support of the ducation standards to remain.
      Not sure where you got the 25% from but I am sure this figure would vary between regions, aged groups etc. But again supporting a minority view.

    Gerry Lenihan

    The most relevant comment in the article was from Michelle Cull. “What’s disappointing is that from the outset, if it had been structured differently, this work experience requirement would’ve been able to be dealt with back when the legislation went through because that’s what universities do.”
    When FASEA came along, I was told my 30 years of experience, CFP (gained in 1992), DipFP, , SIA Certificate in Financial Markets (including FP module), Higher National Diploma (HND) in Business Studies (UK), CPD annual compliance, and clear disciplinary record meant nothing. Was that right?

    The evolution of a profession cannot be achieved in a few years. And simply making it mandatory for everyone within a few years to have a “degree” is the recipe for disaster that has occurred.
    The sad truth is that hundreds of good advisers have walked away. Many, like me, who grew up in an era where it was not the norm to leave school and get a degree.

    The biggest losers have been the public. There are by all accounts over 1,000,000 people looking for an adviser and that number only growing. So good on Stephen Jones for trying to do something about that.

    Mark Tyminski CFP® DipFP PC.SMSF

    The expression, “Never confuse education with intelligence. You can have a PhD and still be an idiot”, comes to mind. I’m a CFP with over 20 years’ experience and hold specialist qualifications in SMSF and Aged Care. When being assessed in relation to the credits I could use towards my Grad Dip, I was more than disappointed to be told that my CFP was “too old” and that my thousands of CE over the years weren’t considered and I received no credit for them. The expense to complete the Grad Dip doubled as a result of the assessment.

    Furthermore, qualified lawyers have to complete 10 hours of CE each year, whereas I have to complete 40 hours (my average is more than twice that due to my specialities).

    Perhaps the educational institutions should re-consider the amounts they charge for courses, instead of crying “crocodile tears” as they watch their profits decline, and provide more flexibility to advisers with the timeframes in which they have to complete courses.

    Once again, academia having little understanding of real-life practicalities. At least Brian Knight had the honesty to state that they didn’t get the educational solution right in the first place.

      Gerry Lenihan

      Completely agree with your comment Mark


      I agree 100%. I don’t even believe a full degree is necessary for new entrants. I’ve been doing the Grad Dip and it seems only a little different to my original DFP 20 years ago. Most graduates I’ve worked with have stated they forgot most of what they learned by the time they started on the job and benefited more from learning on the job with experienced advisers and quality compliance.

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