Judith Fox (left), Peter Burgess and Sarah Abood

The Joint Association Working Group says maintaining a high standard is central to its new education pathway proposal, which aims to boost flexibility in the current structure to attract new entrants to the profession.

JAWG announced its proposal last month, which focused on using the five core knowledge areas proposed by the government (commercial law, behavioural finance, taxation, advice regulation and ethics), along with three other subjects that would make up the eight units required for a bachelor’s degree.

Importantly, the proposal would allow subjects already studied in similar fields to be counted.

SMSF Association CEO Peter Burgess said his association supported the proposal because it wants more flexibility, but still wants to maintain a high standard.

“It’s not about reducing the bar…that was a non-negotiable as far as I was concerned,” Burgess said at the Stockbrokers and Investment Advisers Association in a panel session with SIAA CEO Judith Fox and Financial Advice Association CEO Sarah Abood.

“As an association we stand for raising competency standards, so it was an absolute non-negotiable that whatever we did here was not about lowering the bar at all into the profession.”

Noting the standard has largely been geared towards holistic financial planners joining the industry, Abood said the FAAA supported expanding the pathway to address the advice gap.

“We know we need far more people with these qualifications and the current system is not supporting that, but it was really important to us and our members that the standard didn’t fall,” Abood said.

Abood said it was important to broaden the pool of advisers while not lowering the standard and that the minimum qualification requirements remained at a bachelor’s degree level.

“The current qualification framework works really well for a number of participants; certainly, a number of our members are happy with it,” she said.

Changing teams

A core theme to the proposal is making advice more attractive to career changers and Burgess said this is because they have often already completed degrees in other disciplines.

“Rather than having to complete a second degree…and re-study those knowledge areas they have perhaps already done, this proposal will enable them to get credit for those particular units,” Burgess said.

FASEA previously approved pre-existing and current degrees, and with the authority now defunct, Burgess said the educators would have to move to a self-assessment model.

“The education provider would self-assess against the curriculum,” Burgess said.

“Once they’ve done that the results of that would then be recorded and shown to ASIC and ASIC would maintain, in our view, some form of register which would list all the various subjects that have been approved as being counting towards a financial planning qualification.

“We would expect those providers to be audited every now and again to make sure their self-assessment process is correct and they have met the criteria.”

Abood said she doesn’t expect a change to the role in the process played by licensees.

“Licensees already have the obligation to ensure the qualifications of their advisers are appropriate to the areas of advice they’re practicing in,” Abood said.

“It’s already the case that most licensees don’t authorise someone who’s been practicing in life insurance, in direct shares, unless they’ve got specific qualifications in that area, and I anticipate that would continue.”