Conexus Financial editor-in-chief Aleks Vickovich (left) and Stephen Jones. Photo: Jack Smith

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones has expressed willingness to drop the term “qualified adviser” while addressing the chairs of the country’s major super funds in Melbourne.

Jones released the full government response to the Quality of Advice Review last year – dubbed the Delivering Better Financial Outcomes package – which will allow institutions including super funds to employ “qualified advisers” to give advice, albeit at a restricted level despite what the term “qualified” might otherwise suggest.

The qualified adviser title has been a point of contention for the advice profession, which believes it undermines the capabilities and status of professional advisers, who are held to higher standards of education, ethics and behaviour than the so-called “qualified” advisers would be.

Speaking at the Chair Forum in Melbourne on Wednesday night, hosted by Professional Planner sister publication Investment Magazine, Jones acknowledged the qualified adviser term is likely to be changed, but praised the overall legislative framework laid out for the advice and super sectors.

“We’ve set out a framework, [there’s] a bit of excitement amongst the adviser profession around nomenclature – if that’s the biggest problem we’ve got then it’ll be pretty easy to fix,” Jones said.

“I think the framework is right: a bigger role for funds, ensuring that we’ve regulated appropriately for risks.”

The comments preceded those of Financial Advice Association CEO Sarah Abood, who similarly confirmed direct acknowledgement from the minister that the name isn’t “set in stone”.

“We’re pleased the minister has let us know that the term is not set in stone and alternatives will be considered during the next phase of consultation,” Abood said at the PritchittBland Communications New Year kick-off event in Sydney.

In Melbourne, Jones said the super industry has done a good job at growing members’ wealth, but the current flaw in the system is inadequate retirement income solutions to maximise super’s benefit, which the Retirement Income Covenant is meant to solve.

“Whether that’s a sophisticated retirement income product [or] an account-based pension or however it is we need to be able to ensure we’re doing that,” Jones said.

Bracing for impact

The government’s response to the QAR in June last year included the announcement that super funds would be granted more freedom to give advice.

The move has been controversial with advisers worried about whether there would be a level playing field, despite the super sector not uniformly being interested in giving more financial advice.

Jones said the feedback he is receiving from funds suggests there is a spectrum of appetite for giving advice.