Financial Planning

Industry bodies help in COVID-19 advice move

COVID-19 financial advice

ASIC's decision to provide relief on the provision of financial advice during the COVID-19 lock-down was made in collaboration with five industry bodies.

Five industry bodies have announced they had worked together and in conjunction with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to make the provision of financial advice, especially that relating to the COVID-19 financial relief measures, easier.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), the SMSF Association, CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA) revealed they had collaborated with the corporate regulator, resulting in today’s relaxation of some of the compliance obligations to which financial advisers are required to adhere.

Some of the legislative parameters loosened include temporarily allowing registered tax agents to provide financial advice regarding the legitimate early release of super without having to hold an Australian financial services licence, and the ability to provide advice without having to issue full statements of advice.

The initiative comes as a significant number of consumers have applied to access superannuation benefits early to ease financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as per the government relief measure, a move which in turn has driven up the demand for financial advice.

“We have come together and collectively worked with ASIC to help the Australian community and to ensure there are more skilled advisers in the marketplace to address this demand,” the joint bodies said.

“This move has removed significant red tape and ensured a simple, streamlined process is in place so those facing financial hardship during this time get the right advice.”

SMSF Association chief executive John Maroney said: “The professional bodies have worked together with ASIC to provide regulatory relief for financial advisers and registered tax agents that allow them to provide advice in the most efficient, timely and cost-effective way to individuals in the current environment.

“The decision to access superannuation early is a significant one with a long-term impact on individuals’ retirement savings, so for them to be able to speak to an accountant or adviser for a small fee to get the advice they need without sacrificing safeguards is welcomed.”

CAANZ advocacy and professional standing group executive Simon Grant described the move as an excellent extension for clients and said “as trusted advisers, accountants are well placed to provide individuals with advice and many already have an existing relationship with their accountant”.

IPA chief executive Andrew Conway pointed out any decision to access superannuation benefits early should be based on easily accessible financial advice, labelling the process as one that is critical for the quality of an individual’s life.

CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter noted the current situation created by COVID-19 required a pragmatic approach to financial advice regulation and a commitment from the associations to work together in the public interest.

FPA chief executive Dante De Gori also welcomed ASIC’s decision, saying: “Australians sleep better at night knowing they have a professional financial planner assisting them in managing their financial position, which is second only to their health in personal importance.

“This is welcome and timely relief from ASIC to assist our members in supporting as many Australians as possible through the financial crisis caused by this pandemic, and demonstrates ASIC acting on sensible calls from professional associations.”

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