Katherine Hunt

Aiming to drive industry consensus, a working group set up on professional networking site LinkedIn is aiming to create the blueprint for the ideal SOA to present to government before a formal consultation gets underway.

The government is expected to consult the industry on the future standard for SOAs later this year, as part of the response to the Quality of Advice Review.

The LinkedIn group, named ‘Advice Documentation Working Group Brainstorm’, is led by former Griffith financial planning lecturer Katherine Hunt who is now managing director for Ardentura Consulting.

“I talk to a lot of financial planners every single week and I seek out really high-performing financial planners,” Hunt tells Professional Planner.

“I almost always ask them ‘what is the biggest bottleneck in your business’ or ‘what’s the biggest challenge’ and SOAs comes up again and again as a friction point, as a bottleneck, as an inefficiency.”

The observations from Hunt echo those of advisers Professional Planner spoke to recently who identified shorter documents that focused on the recommendations, risks and fees as being the foundation of what is necessary.

Hunt says the outcome of the working group is to give a template to the government for them to “slot into place”.

“This is what we [will] recommend as a profession should be the mandatory standard advice document structure,” Hunt says.

“The idea is by the profession developing it, all the names on the team of people who will have been contributing, they’re all practicing financial planners with a few consultants like me in facilitation mode. Its profession developed and the idea is there won’t be that resistance.”

Neilson & Co managing partner and adviser Ben Neilson, who published a PhD thesis earlier this year on how simpler SOAs can drive consumer satisfaction and is part of the working group, says one of the key suggestions has been to summarise complex financial directions into single sentences for brevity.

“We’re aiming to use these sentences to not only help those around us – admin, support, outsourced planners and people who are not in the meetings – so the office can complete the financial recommendations, but more importantly we can share that information with the consumer,” Neilson says.

Hunt points to risk profiling as an example. “[The group decided] there needs to be a sentence on risk profiling,” Hunt says.

“A sentence. That’s very different to the way that licensees are managing that at the moment.”

The group is still in its infancy, only having started a few months ago, and is far from close to concluding its work, but Neilson highlighted the importance of the initiative.