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Robo-planner for SMSF accountants unveiled

Australian fintech start-up the Accountants Scaled Advice Platform (ASAP) today launched its digital financial advisory platform service designed specifically for the needs of SMSFs and their accountants.

The platform was developed in response to the removal of the accountants’ exemption, which ended on 1 July.

During the start of the new licensing regime until the platform’s launch today, many SMSF accountants had not yet decided whether to refer certain client questions to licensed advisers or become licensed advisers themselves, according to ASAP chief executive and actuary Jim Hennington.

While ASAP did not change that basic decision, it made it much easier for accountants to try a referral strategy first, Hennington noted.

“Our beta launch has been worth the wait,” he said.

“Months of coding, research and consultation with accountants, licensees, lawyers and regulators has produced what we think is the sweet-spot answer to the vexed question: how do you retrofit a fully compliant, licensed financial advice process to the long-established trustee/accountant relationship?

“By definition, SMSF trustees like to make their own financial planning decisions with the input of tax advice from their accountants, who now need to become experts in the technical rules about what’s in and out of licensing scope.

“Harder still, accountants need to weave this new compliance responsibility into their client conversations without losing their trust and engagement.”

At the forefront of the ASAP online service is a proprietary software tool, CoCo, which is designed to help accountants without financial services licences identify the ‘stepping off’ points in SMSF client conversations.

For each common SMSF transaction type, CoCo identifies and segregates the discrete financial decisions requiring a licensee’s advice, then allocates responsibility for decision-making to the appropriate parties.

“When combined with 24/7 desktop access, CoCo allows the platform to seamlessly integrate with existing SMSF client consultation processes,” Hennington revealed.

“This means the entire consultation, advice and execution process can be expedited if the client choses to input their initial requirements directly into ASAP while still at their accountant’s office.

“ASAP saves an enormous amount of time and money for SMSF trustees compared to the conventional accountants’ referral and in-person advice process – there’s no need to arrange a second in-person meeting, while additional professional fees are kept to a minimum with a fixed pricing schedule for most matters.

“Digital advice also increases the likelihood that trustees will receive licensed advice when they need it.”

He said it was no secret the removal of the exemption failed to trigger a flood of new licences, nor did it prove to be a boon for existing financial planners.

“This can only mean that more trustees than ever aren’t receiving professional advice – quite the opposite of what the government intended,” he noted.

“We’re proud to have found a way to use technology as the elegant solution to disruptive changes in the law. It helps SMSF trustees and their accountants, while supporting an important public policy objective.”

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