SAFAA welcomes Coalition reset of education standards

The release by Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Senator the Hon Jane Hume of a proposed reset of education standards for financial advisers is welcomed by Stockbrokers and Financial Advisers Association (SAFAA), and restores common sense to education standards to the benefit of Australians needing sound financial and investment advice.

“The government’s proposals restore Parliament’s intent, which clearly stated that a degree or degree equivalent was required and also deep experience and prior learning would be recognised as the equivalent of a degree,” said Judith Fox, SAFAA CEO. ”It was the standards authority — a bureaucracy that was averse to stakeholder engagement — that narrowed the scope of recognised qualifications. It deemed a range of advisers with degrees best suited to stockbroking and investment advice as unqualified and skills, knowledge and experience unsuitable for recognition.”

The impact of the existing education standards was not only causing an exodus of experience, but also driving up the cost of advice and discouraging graduates from entering the profession, as they found their degrees were not accepted.

Degrees in economics, finance, commerce and business from all Australian universities, particularly those from universities rated in the top 100 globally – qualifications which until now have been considered most suitable to a profession in investing – were not approved. Degrees before certain dates were not approved. This resulted in perverse outcomes such as an investment adviser with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance from a world-recognised university being considered less qualified than an adviser with a Bachelor of Property majoring in financial planning from a university outside those rankings.

“Investment advisers have significant undergraduate and postgraduate education qualifications in commerce, economics, finance and business from Australia’s most established universities,”noted Ms Fox. ”The government’s proposals recognise that universities — rather than government — are best placed to design and accredit degrees suitable for professions.”

The proposals also acknowledge that a degree should have standing, irrespective of when it was acquired. “It would be inconceivable to propose that High Court judges were unqualified because their degrees date from the 1980s,”said Ms Fox, “yet the standards authority made such a determination in relation to degrees relevant to the investment profession.”

“And when degrees were introduced for nurses, no one proposed that experienced nurses should have to leave the profession because they did not have a degree,”she commented. ”Rather, their experience and prior learning was recognised as equating to a qualification and their knowledge and skill continued to be utilised, including in mentoring the next generation. This is what is being proposed for stockbrokers and investment advisers who have longstanding relationships with clients over decades, but who might not have a degree.”

SAFAA will be talking to its members in preparation for a response to the consultation on the proposals for resetting the education standards. 

Contact: Judith Fox, CEO, 0408 667 246