With conferences cancelled and exams postponed as part of the broad COVID-19 business shutdown, the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) and industry associations are offering guidance on the way forward.
In a statement, FASEA said it recognised the challenges presented by COVID-19, especially in the delivery of face-to-face CPD offerings. The Financial Planning Association’s (FPA’s) Head of Policy and Standards, Ben Marshan, confirmed the FPA is in regular contact with government, the opposition and other stakeholders on the FASEA exam extension legislation.
“We have no doubt it will be passed when Parliament resumes later this year,” he says. “The FPA has also actively been speaking with ASIC and FASEA around the challenges posed by some licensee CPD policies and what can be done to provide additional flexibility to meet CPD deadlines.”
With conferences and face-to face meetings no longer an option, the FPA and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) are supporting members by making free CPD content available to help them comply with their CPD plans as the year progresses. For example, Marshan says members can currently choose from 120 hours of free CPD ranging from webinars, courses, articles, quizzes and more.
“We’re creating more webinars to help FPA members complete at least 75 per cent of their CPD requirements for free as part of their membership,” he says.
Operate more efficiently
The FPA and AFA have both utilised parts of their websites and social media channels to helping members understand government stimulus packages, how to set up their practices to operate remotely and support their clients and staff. This may also become relevant CPD content as it directly addresses issues that members are dealing with in their everyday dealings with clients.
More broadly, the FPA has been encouraging members to use this time to consider how they can operate more efficiently, cost effectively and better engage clients through the advice journey.
“In this current environment, where clients may be facing uncertainty with their health, their financial positions and their careers, financial planners have an opportunity to consider whether the way they have been doing business is sustainable and whether they are using the right tools,” Marshan says.
“The FPA would continue to encourage members to consider the tech stacks and improving their advice process through upskilling in fintech and broader technology.”
Like many organisations across Australia, the FPA says financial advisers are adapting to business disruption in a variety of innovative ways.
“We are finding great success in using chat rooms, video conferencing and trying to create a sense of fun in the workday through things like health challenges and virtual lunches/entertainment/drinks to make sure everyone feels part of the team,” Marshan says.
“Staying connected is critical for businesses that rely on face-to-face contact like financial planning. We are fortunate that technology is enabling most financial planners to continue being of service to their clients during these difficult times.”
In a statement, FASEA said licensee’s CPD policies are required to include potential relief provisions to assist the needs of advisers experiencing extenuating circumstances. Advisers affected in this way should consider contacting their licensee to determine the most appropriate approach to their individual position.
While the April 2020 face-to-face sittings of the Adviser Exam were cancelled due to the global pandemic, this was made available to registered candidates as a remote online option. An option to defer until the June or a later sitting was also available to candidates. For further updates on adviser exam arrangements and CPD requirements, please consult the ASIC or FASEA websites.