The incoming standards, set by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA), will require those with a bachelor’s degree in a “related field” - including accounting, business and economics - to complete a bridging course of three study units.
The additional education requirements, announced yesterday, make no distinction between accountants holding a limited licence versus those holding a full AFSL, which has been met with fury by an accounting population fatigued by extensive changes to the licensing regime since the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms in 2013.
Some, like director at Ariel and Associates Jeremy Danon, fear regulation that is persistently shifting the goal posts for accountants providing advice will result in many “throwing their hands up” and leaving the AFSL regime entirely. This is a particular risk for SMSF advice, which was the key driver of the limited licence, and traditionally accountants’ heartland.
“I believe that accountants will leave the space saying that it’s just not worth it anymore. For something that was traditionally their domain, accountants are being lumped with all other financial planners with no exemption or grandfathering relief,” Mr Danon told Accountants Daily.
“The more accountants that disappear from the SMSF space, the harder and more expensive it will be to obtain proper professional SMSF advice. I reckon that if a client had a choice between seeking SMSF advice from their own accountant or a financial adviser or planner, I know which most of them would choose,” he added.
Accounting bodies like Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) are seeking further clarification about what postgraduate courses will count towards recognised studies. On balance, accountants typically complete significantly more training and education than a financial planner, who have historically only required RG146 certification to operate.
“Generally speaking, accountants who have operated in this area have done it for a long time. Those people with 20-plus years experience should be recognised as having different credentials to someone that has just got a degree and RG146,” CA ANZ senior policy adviser, Bronny Speed, told Accountants Daily.
“Surely those years and those extras equate to something,” she said.
On the plus side, FASEA has recognised accounting-based education - like accounting and economics degrees - as those in a “related field.” Previously, there were fears accounting-related degrees wouldn’t be recognised as such, meaning accountants providing advice would have to start from square one with their education to continue.