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Hewison Insights

The facts on FoFA

John Hewison
Founder and Director
24 Jun 2014

Australia is a leading light on the world stage of practicing professional financial planning and education standards.

Since 1992 the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) has been a prominent member of the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB). The FPSB administers the pre-eminent, globally recognised Certified Financial Planning (CFP) professional practicing standard for financial planners.

The CFP standard in Australia has a degree based entry level and requires applicants to be a member of the FPA, abide by its professional practicing standards and be subject to its disciplinary regime. Included in the FPA standards is fiduciary duty – putting clients’ best interests before all others and fee-based remuneration that is free of conflict of interest.

So why is it that given this long history of commitment to and development of professional standards in financial planning in this country, the Federal Government just doesn’t get it? How is it that when we get the opportunity to appropriate professional standards and consumer protection, the Government buckles to vested interests of the banking sector which is driven by product sales?

Financial planning is an honourable profession, however for years its reputation has been tarnished by shonky operators, self-interested dealing, financial kick-backs, incentive payments, multi-tiered structuring and product-driven advice.

Hewison Private Wealth is an independent financial planning firm which has always been fee-for-service and has always had a degree-based education requirement for its financial advisers. Hence we are totally incensed by the Federal Government’s failure to use the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) legislation to lift the regulatory standards in Australia to a satisfactory level.

The Federal Government’s proposals for changes to FoFA regulations permit a range of “softeners” for advisers of product manufacturers, including volume-based and wholesale commissions, as well as commission-like percentage based fees.

The most insidious part of this legislation is the issue of “Grandfathering.” There are hundreds of billions of dollars of investors’ funds that pay out “trailing” commissions to advisers every year. Grandfathering means that if you were being ripped off by trail commissions pre-FoFA, you will continue to be ripped off post FoFA. What makes this even more obscene is that there is now a healthy trade in “trail books” where commission driven organisations pay for the right to receive revenue from existing trail commission arrangements.

Most investors do not know they are paying trail commissions and get no benefit from them whatsoever. A financial adviser is now never likely to advise an individual to make changes to these investments in the future because they will lose the trail commission. This is hardly conducive to encouraging appropriate advice to the consumer.

At a time when the Federal Government is calling on Australians to be more self-reliant in retirement, financial planning is incredibly important to help them achieve financial security. The Australian community therefore has a right to expect that their financial adviser is appropriately educated and fully committed to providing professional, non-conflicted advice which is in their best interests.

Currently, approximately 80 per cent of financial advisers are employed by the banking sector which is product sales driven – not advice driven. Hence, a financial product salesperson working for a product manufacturer like a bank or insurance company would never truly be able to fulfil the regulations under FoFA as they are undeniably conflicted through commercial interests.

Two conflicting articles in the Herald Sun (21 June, 2014) tell the story. First, one titled, “Finance rewind,” (page 28) says despite FoFA laws being wound back, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has indicated consumers’ best interests will still be protected through six steps that must be followed under the Corporations Act. A second, “Banks OK FoFA law changes,” (page 57) show the banks support the Government’s moves and says the proposals strike “the right balance between consumer protection and consumer access to affordable, high-quality financial advice.”

That just about says it all.



Hewison Private Wealth is a Melbourne based independent financial planning firm. Our financial advisers are highly qualified wealth managers and specialise in self managed super funds (SMSF), financial planning, retirement planning advice and investment portfolio management. If you would like to speak to a financial adviser on how you can secure your financial future please contact us 03 8548 4800, email info@hewison.com.au or visit www.hewison.com.auPlease note: The advice provided above is general information only and individuals should seek specialised advice from a qualified financial advisor. The views in this blog are those of the individual and may not represent the general opinion of the firm. Please contact Hewison Private Wealth for more information.