Business News

Advice effect on accountant trust unknown

Opinion remains divided on whether the trusted status accountants enjoy among their clients and the greater public will be eroded if some practitioners are found to be providing poor SMSF advice under the licensing regime, according to a financial services research company senior executive.

“Clearly they hold a fairly privileged position at the moment in terms of the trust that is ascribed to accountants,” CoreData head of financial services Julian Fewtrell told an SMSF Association Sydney chapter function late last year.

“The question is is there enough equity in that trust that a few bad eggs or a few mishaps along the way, so if we had an accountant perhaps providing advice in an area where they shouldn’t and that advice goes bad, will that have the same impact if a financial planner provided similar advice?

“We’re undecided as to how that might play out. There is a view that says well they’ve got much more to lose therefore the fall could be much greater and suddenly all of the 30-odd thousand accountants out there will be tarnished by the same brush.

“Or there is sufficient equity there that it’ll just survive and it will be seen as one or two bad eggs.”

Fewtrell pointed out the end result might come down to the media coverage of the incidents where accountants breached the law.

He added there were accountants being caught and punished for misconduct on a regular basis already, however, there had been no impact on the level of trust in the profession as the incidents had not been widely reported.

“A financial planner doing something like that gets reported everywhere,” he added.

“Whether that will start to happen when accountants are actually getting involved in financial planning, I think we’ll have to wait and see.”

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