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Accounting, Financial Planning, Investments

Licensing regime a one-dimensional view on advice

The limited licensing regime for accountants is proving to be too onerous and has failed to recognise financial advice is not a monolithic unit, according to new online marketplace and platform offering OpenInvest.

OpenInvest co-founder and chief executive Andrew Varlamos told a panel discussion, hosted by the SMSF Association and ATO in Sydney yesterday as part of the inaugural SMSF Week, that SMSF trustees and members currently face a range of issues, including lack of diversification, multigenerational risks and cognitive decline.

Varlamos also noted many do not seek professional financial advice.

“You almost get to a point where you say this is a really serious problem,” he said.

“If only there was a mass, broadly distributed across Australia, well-educated university educated cohort of people who are professionals who actually deal with most of these unadvised self-managed super fund trustees, because they could really help.

“But of course there are. They’re called the accountants.”

While not advocating for the reinstatement of the accountants’ exemption for advising on SMSFs, he said the solution might lie in refining the licensing regime so accountants can advise on areas that are familiar to them without fearing they are providing personal financial advice.

Accountants are well placed to advise on structuring SMSFs, contribution strategies and pension strategies, but they may not wish to provide advice on other elements such as selecting shares or investment managers, he noted.

“If they do want to do the latter, they should be caught by all the elements of the financial services regime because they’re doing things that are not much different to what every financial planner does,” he said.

“But they are different things, but the regime doesn’t at the moment distinguish [between them].”

Accountants can guide clients through their SMSF structures, diversification of SMSF portfolios and underlying risks, but an arduous licensing regime will deter them from advising on these matters, he noted.

This will lead to “more and more problems down the track”, he said.

OpenInvest, which was launched on Monday, is an online marketplace and platform offering that provides SMSF trustees with direct access to a range of highly credible and experienced managers.

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