In its submission to the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) on proposed changes to Standard 3 of the Code of Ethics, Stockbrokers and Financial Advisers Association (SAFAA) has supported Option 1, but urged FASEA to adopt its own wording describing the intent of the standard, rather than the convoluted wording it has put forward.
“SAFAA has long expressed concern about the wording of Standard 3 and sought its revision,” said Judith Fox, SAFAA CEO. ‘’The current wording of Standard 3 prohibiting a financial adviser from advising, referring or acting in any other manner where they have a conflict of interest or duty is unworkable in practice, particularly in light of the lack of a test of materiality or proportionality.’’
“The correct legal and ethical position is that it is only when a client’s interests cannot be prioritised that the conflict must be avoided.’’
SAFAA points out that FASEA has captured this correct approach in its own wording used in the intent to the Standard, which is “Advisers must not advise, refer or act in any other manner where they have a conflict of interest or duty that is contrary to the client’s best interests”. However, this wording is not used in Option 1 put forward by FASEA as part of its 11th-hour consultation on Standard 3. FASEA has instead put forward torturous wording in Option 1 to get to the same result.
“We welcome FASEA putting forward an option that clarifies that a conflict of interest only exists when the adviser acts in a manner contrary to the client’s best interests,” said Ms Fox. “We support Option 1. But we query why the proposed wording needs to be more complex and less accessible than FASEA’s intent.”
Ms Fox added, “The aim surely is to be as clear and concise as possible to facilitate compliance with the Standard. We urge FASEA to provide less complex wording by using its own language in the intent.”
“This issue has greater urgency as a result of the introduction of the Single Disciplinary Body on 1 January 2022.’’
Under the Act introducing the Single Disciplinary Body, FASEA will be wound up on 31 December 2021 and its standards-setting function transferred to the Minister.
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Note to editor: The wording put forward by FASEA for a revised Standard 3 in Option 1 is “You must only advise, refer or act where you do not have a conflict of interest or duty, being that which could reasonably be expected to induce you to act other than in the client’s best interest.”
The Stockbrokers and Financial Advisers Association (SAFAA) is the professional body for the stockbroking and financial advice industry. Our members are Market Participants and Advisory firms that provide securities and investment advice, execution services and equity capital-raising for Australian investors, both retail and wholesale, and for businesses. Practitioner Members are suitably qualified professionals who are employed in the securities and derivatives industry.