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Deadline looms for information returns

Authorised financial advisers have until the end of this week to file their annual information returns – but there’s scepticism about what the exercise provides.

Thursday, September 28th 2017, 6:00AM

by Susan Edmunds

The Financial Markets Authority said there were about 400 outstanding returns on Tuesday afternoon, of about 1800 AFAs in the market.

“Last year, just over 600 AFAs filed their return in the last week of September, so we are comfortable with current progress. We will send our further reminders to those who have yet to file later this week,” a spokesman said.

Barry Read, of compliance firm IDS, said the process of completing the return had become easier for advisers each year.

“Because we’ve had this for three years or however long it's been going and the format hasn’t really changed, we haven’t seen many issues. People know what was required the previous year so they are able to easily keep track of what’s required for the return.”

Adviser Simon Hassan said it was useful to do a big-picture "self audit" as required to complete the return "and the exercise prompts me to update documents like my ABS. I am not sure what exactly FMA does with or why it needs some of the data though."

Adviser Murray Weatherston said the returns were not hard to complete.

But he said it was hard to see how the demographic information and high-level data about advice businesses was helpful to the FMA in its monitoring work in the financial advice industry.

“I think it’s just something they do without really thinking about it anymore.”

He said there were few other professions that were required to complete an annual return but it reflected that the FMA had started monitoring the industry without a clear idea of who was involved.  “Lawyers don’t have to do a return, accountants don’t have to do a return."

But Read said it was helpful for the FMA to understand who was giving advice in what areas. 

The authorisation process for advisers gave the regulator no indication of the type of service they were offering, he said.  Return data could be used for FMA programmes of work, such as its former focus on QROPS, or insurance replacement.

But he said he expected the requirement would disappear under the new rules as the licensing process would give the FMA more information, and more regularly, about financial advisers and their businesses.

Tags: AFA financial advisers FMA IDS QROPS regulation

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