Accountants, planners working in silos

There is still significant reluctance for accountants and financial planners to communicate with each other when servicing clients due to a mutual lack of respect between the professions, a panel has been told.

Xpress Super chief executive Olivia Long posed the issue to an auditor, accountant and financial planner during a panel discussion at the SMSF Association National Conference 2018 in Sydney today, citing her own experience of working as an administrator and sitting in between the accountant and the adviser.

Middleton Securities director Nick Loxton said this may be due to a couple of reasons, including fear the accountant or planner may catch a mistake in the other’s work.

“I’d say get over that. You need to shed that. You’re much better off verifying the strategy. If you’re getting the right guidance before you commit to an SOA (statement of advice), before you commit to a situation, you’re doing much less harm than getting it wrong,” Loxton said.

The second reason, according to Loxton, was the fear of losing clients to the other discipline.

“And I just don’t think that happens. I think probably 1 per cent may have. That relationship is so strong between the client and the adviser, the lawyer, whichever one it is,” he said.

“We deal with 50 or 60 different accounting people. And every single one of those relationships between the accountant and the client is rock solid. You’re not going to lose clients. So I think that just needs to be swept aside.”

He stressed communication and transparency were vital, as was the need for the two professions to question each other to identify errors.

“It’s too dangerous to think you know everything. I would rather be questioned,” he said.

Planners should respect accountants’ time and ensure meetings were as short as possible in order to boost engagement between the professions, he said.

He also recommended providing an executive summary of SOAs to accountants instead of providing the entire document, suggesting that could also save time and increase efficiency in the way the two professions worked with each other.

“I just can’t imagine how I could give reasonable advice without checking with the accountants whether we’re on the same page beforehand,” he said.

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