Sarah Abood

The FAAA will recommend an education level higher than a bachelor’s degree for Qualified Advisers, trumping the Council of Australian Life Insurers proposal to have a sub-diploma level qualification for so-called Qualified Advisers.

The FAAA will suggest a Graduate Certificate, which is an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) level eight and higher than a Bachelor’s Degree (AQF7), but typically requires only six to 12 months.

CALI announced via Professional Planner last week it had recommended to government that QAs should only require a Certificate IV (AQF4). “Clearly we disagree,” FAAA chief executive Sarah Abood says on the insurer’s proposal.

While most candidates for a qualified adviser role may not hold a degree, Abood says current workers would likely be able to qualify to commence the qualifications if they have a couple of years work experience.

“These graduate certificates already exist, most of the unis built them for existing advisers,” Abood tells Professional Planner.

“The work has been done, the material is there. The assessment has been done for what someone actually need to know in order to advise a client.”

The Labor government announced QAs would be introduced as part of its response to the Quality of Advice Review, leading to negative feedback from the advice profession who felt the name misrepresented the level of authority QAs would have. Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones has since indicated the name will likely change.

However, the bonus for the greater advice profession with the FAAA proposal is that by having completed a Graduate Certificate which is four units, qualified advisers would only need to complete another four units to gain an approved qualification, creating a streamlined pathway for QAs to fulfill the education standard without any concessions to the rules.

“The idea then is you’re in the ecosystem, you’re on the pathway to become a full adviser,” Abood says.

“Then having got that grad certificate, you’ve just got one more year [to do a] grad diploma, then all you have to do is a Professional Year, then you’re an adviser.”

However, she says there is still the issue of cost, and the association is pushing the government to offer support to alleviate that stress.

“If it was full fee that would be something like $3500 to $3700 per unit and what we would be calling upon the government to do is to offer Commonwealth support for that,” Abood says.

“They’ve yet to do anything tangible to help us rebuild the numbers in this profession. If we were able to make that a Commonwealth-supported course, then the actual cost to the student would only be $600 a unit and I imagine employers would be willing in many cases to fund that.”

By utilising Graduate Certificates that had already been created to fit into the stringent education standard, Abood says it removes the potential for lower quality courses to pop-up to fulfill the demand.

“We’re also worried about going back to that world of RG146 when there’s hundreds of courses pop up at varying levels of quality and so on and we end up with no consistent standard,” Abood says.

“Because [the courses] are already there it also helps us support the unis that are really suffering because they don’t have enough students coming through.”

She adds this will also help add interest back into many of the university courses that saw demand drop due to the experience pathway which passed parliament last year.

“We’ve had a bunch of those post-grad degrees close this year, I think we lost four at the start of the year because the of the experience pathway, the unis are just not getting the numbers through, they can’t support them,” Abood says.

While the FAAA’s recommendation seems stringent given there’s a much higher barrier to entry than what might have been anticipated, Abood says this proposal is designed with current call centre workers in mind, not backpackers or high school leavers.