Competency standards - to move forward, start at the finish

Professional competency is a career-long journey and if financial advisers can't cope with minimum standards, then it's probably not the path they should be taking.

Friday, October 29th 2021, 5:29AM

by Matthew Martin

That was part of the message delivered to viewers of a Financial Advice New Zealand 'Bring in the Experts' webinar where a panel of industry experts discussed the new competency requirements for financial advisers.

To provide regulated financial advice under the new regime, advisers need to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct for Financial Advice Standards.

These standards have changed and for some financial advisers, the competency requirements are much higher and if they breach these standards it will impact both an employer's FAP licence and individual financial advisers.

Part 2 of the standards relate to Competence, Knowledge and Skill and according to code committee chairman Angus Dale-Jones the best way to make sure advisers meet the standard is to work backwards starting with Code Standard 6.

Code Standard 6 lists the ways advisers can meet the standards starting with the minimum requirement of holding a New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services Level 5.

Dale-Jones says advisers should not stop there as reaching the minimum standard may not help with their continuing professional development (CPD) and education and professional development should be seen as a lifelong challenge.

He says CPD should be a starting point, "...but you have to think more broadly about competency beyond those standards to serve your clients the best way you can".

"If you are getting hung up about a minimum standard then you should probably look elsewhere for your career.

"But I am sympathetic because it is hard going back to school, but you do have to force yourself...professionalism is a lifelong journey and you need to grow and keep on top of that...to ensure the availability and quality of advice you are giving meets those standards."

The Financial Markets Authority's director of market engagement John Botica was also on the panel and explained the concept of a "safe harbour" for advisers looking to meet competency standards that he says are the keys to lifting professionalism in the industry.

For those with older qualifications, all is not lost as many of those qualifications can be transferred across as part of an adviser's CPD.

"If you were an AFA, you immediately tick all the competency boxes.

"If you were an RFA you may not have all the requirements but you can continue to provide advice until the cut-off date of the 16th of March 2023...and you can still give class advice for KiwiSaver clients.

"But when you have the competency you can fully explore all the sorts of advice you want to give...the code is an enabler for you," says Botica.

However, the central message in the code says Dale-Jones, is underpinned by the first standard - how do you go about treating your client fairly?

"You can't get far without that," he says.

Some of the messages coming through during the webinar were less than enthusiastic with some saying the new regulations were holding people back from joining the industry and forcing others to leave, and that compliance costs were also prohibitive with one saying it will cost their business $1200 a month to stay in the industry.

Tags: Angus Dale-Jones compliance conduct Financial Advice New Zealand financial advisers financial literacy John Botica NZQA qualifications

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