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Submitters criticise code suggestions

Submitters told the Code Working Group there were serious problems with its initial proposals for a new code of conduct for financial advisers.

Friday, July 20th 2018, 6:00AM 4 Comments

by Susan Edmunds

The 160 submissions received by the group have now been published online and some key themes are apparent among them.

Submitters uniformly rejected the idea that the code should focus on "good advice outcomes".

They said consumers would misunderstand that phrase and take it to mean good advice was when a product performed well.

The Financial Services Council suggested "good advice experience" would be a better option, although some submitters said simply "good advice" would be sufficient.

The code working group had proposed a level five minimum qualification for those dealing in product advice, and at least a degree standard for those offering financial planning.

Financial advice providers (FAPs) would have the option to show that their advisers had met those requirements "in aggregate" if their systems were strong enough to fill in the gaps in advisers' qualifications or knowledge.

Submitters were divided in their view of those suggestions.

ANZ said it was important that FAPs had the ability to train their staff in-house but said a degree should not be needed for financial planning.

Advice group Share said the level five standard would be an objective test of competence, knowledge and skill but it was not clear how advisers could satisfy the minimum standard without it.

"If level 5 is a requirement, the code should say that."

The TripleA Advisers Association said the idea of combined aggregate experience was "deeply flawed".

"An analogy would be a hospital saying they only need one or two doctors in order to say they have the combined expertise to operate. This is clearly an idea that advantages larger players."

It said a single industry base standard was needed.

Advice firm Newton Ross also weighed in, saying the idea of aggregate competency was a fatally flawed concept that would ensure a "completely unskilled person" gave poor customer advice.

But Westpac said the model would allow more access to financial advice for New Zealanders and BNZ said aggregation would increase the accessibility of advice, though it said a level five qualification seemed excessive for those dealing in new bank accounts and credit cards.

Westpac agreed and said FAPs should be free to decide the relevant level of qualification for their structures.

There were warnings that higher education standards could have an impact on the industry and the access of advice for New Zealanders, which the working group wants to promote.

TripleA said more educational requirements would increase the barrier to new entrants and could prompt some advisers to offer product-only advice rather than full financial advice.

FSCL agreed, saying there was a risk that advisers would shy away from a full service and opt only to sell products.

AIA said there could be a race to the bottom and there wae the potential for RFAs to abadon the planning and advice aspect of their work if they did not have a degree or want to get one.

AMP said it was critical that the "greyness" between product advice and financial planning was minimised.

It said much of the advice currently being given would be deemed planning and advisers would face a massive increase to hit the required standard.

Adviser Regan Thomas said the term "financial adviser" should be limited only to those who gave advice and there should be a new term to describe those who were simply salespeople.

Sales was the riskiest area, he said, because clients might think they had been through an advice process.

Newton Ross agreed, saying recommending a single issuer's product was not advice as a consumer would expect it but "financial planning" had an established definition and the code would need to be careful in how it pushed advisers towards that.

There was widespread rejection of the suggestion that FAPs should have minimum standards of ethical behaviour beyond legal obligations.

Many submitters said the code suggestions would bring extra compliance cost, particularly for small firms.

"There are huge compliance costs for all of this," said adviser and former PAA chairman Peter Leitch. "And whilst the large FAPs will talk about the cost of millions of dollars, the relative cost for a small FAP is much greater in real terms."

The TripleA Advisers Association said independent advice firms were the one body of advisers who truly looked after the interests of consumers.

"They will disappear if the net result of the review is significantly higher compliance costs for small business."

It said 40% of the questions in the submission document related to proposals that would unduly put cost on small advice businesses.

AMP  suggested standards for replacement business and said advisers should have to take reasonable steps to ensure the scope of service was in line with what the customer wanted. It said ongoing servicing requirements should also be considered.

There was concern that an an adequate grandfathering arrangement was needed for RFAs - ANZ said they should be able to transition to the regime offering advice on products they had experience in.

Tags: Code Working Group financial advisers

« Bank fund managers 'conflicted on exclusions'Mann on a mission to diversify financial advice »

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Comments from our readers

On 20 July 2018 at 7:22 am Murray Weatherston said:
Given the emphasis on consumer-centricity, where are the submissions from consumer organisations?
Unless I am mistaken, the only consumer organisation submission was from Citizens Advice Bureau.
On 20 July 2018 at 9:47 am Dirty Harry said:
Careful what you wish for Murray. If you want their views, pick up the Listener.
On 20 July 2018 at 9:52 am Dirty Harry said:
Also, this:

Should the Code include a minimum standard on conflicts of interest in addition to the legislation?
Yes it should. We would like to see this standard include a ban on commissions and other forms of conflicted remuneration (see attached submission). Para 116 acknowledges that ethical behaviour does not come ‘naturally’ to everyone, and that providers need constant reminders to honour their ethical obligations.

Removing conflicted remuneration from the advice landscape would make it much easier for providers to act in an ethical fashion. It would make it easier for them to avoid conflicts of interest and significantly
reduce the need to manage conflicts of interest and communicate these to the client.
On 20 July 2018 at 4:12 pm RS said:
Thanks Harry, that Listener hit-peice fetured many inaccuracies. The problem is, banning commissions clearly flies in the face of the whole point of this legislative exercise.

In what way does billing clients directly for insurance advice, when most of that advice is currently provided free, help more people get that advice?

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