"Don't let me be misunderstood": Conflicts, professionalism and advice

Smarter Compliance. In previous articles we've addressed the limitations of disclosure, RG181, s961J and the seemingly inevitable tendency for advice businesses to subordinate their clients' interests to their own. Conflicts exist in all commercial enterprises but the challenge for businesses providing financial advice is the effective and efficient management of these conflicts. The question seldom asked is whether these conflicts can ever be effectively and efficiently managed. This article introduces relevant research, including the research paper submitted to the Royal Commission by Professor Sunita Sah.

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Reasonable Steps: Licensee obligations and regulatory risk management

Smarter compliance. Section 912A(1)(a) of the Corporations Act requires a financial services licensee to “do all things necessary to ensure that the financial services covered by the licence are provided efficiently, honestly and fairly”. As we’ve seen from the Banking Royal Commission, this is neither verbiage nor aspirational sentiment but a compendious expectation that requires consistent and demonstrable competence, capability, efficiency and integrity. It’s also an obligation that the law expects to apply equally to the Licensee and their representatives. This article moves from the specific case of ASIC v Financial Circle to the reasonable compliance arrangements expected of licensees.

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The examined life: FASEA, facts and the future of advice

Smarter Compliance. We are now on the eve of the implementation of the Corporations Amendment (Professional Standards of Financial Advisers) Act. FASEA and this legislation will significantly change the training, education and ethical standards for financial advisers and reshape the advice profession. This article explores the significance of the proposed change in education standards, maps out the practical differences and draws on similar examples to highlight the facts that advisers will need assured support to weather these changes.

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The Great Divide: RG146, training and education

Smarter Compliance. In this guest post, education expert, Angelique Aksenoff, introduces the great divide in competency standards and asks “what will happen to RG 146 and Tier 2 advisers with the uplift to financial adviser education and training standards?”. Identifying that shifting Tier 2 standards will have a far more profound impact than many anticipate, the author explores the challenges and likely consequences of these essential reforms.

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Advice, file-notes and adverse inferences

Despite the emphasis on regulated documents, and the increasing use of technology, advice has an oral foundation. Unfortunately, memory is imperfect. In reality, a failure to appropriately document client conversations, answers or agreements can challenge your credibility and expose you to additional risk. Poor file-noting may not be fatal for you, but in the event of a claim or dispute, courts may draw adverse inferences from scant or non-existent file-notes. This article addresses these risks and suggests ways you can avoid undercutting your professionalism or prejudicing your defence.

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September Update: Connections, Conduct and Coding

Smarter compliance. We live in interesting times. While many participants are intimidated by the Royal Commission and ASIC’s Report 594, we just kept coding to ensure that OpenAFSL continues to deliver on its promise. We crushed it in September. The full list of tweaks, enhancements and innovations would overwhelm you but, in this article, we’ll cover some of the main ones.

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Adviser Q&A: Product Replacement

Smarter compliance. Good advice, as Sean Graham explains, demands solutions driven by the clients’ best interests and supported by the adviser’s bona fide consideration of alternatives. Very poor advice, in my experience, often fails to prioritise the clients’ interests. Poor advice, on the hand, often results from a failure to rigorously, efficiently or fairly considering options. The safe harbour steps require advisers to research products they’re recommending as replacements (and those they’re recommending to be replaced) but some advisers still struggle with the requirement. This article answers some of the questions we get from advisers on product replacement.

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Always on my mind: Licensees' approach to breach reporting

The Banking Royal Commission quickly and easily exposed profound and systemic non-compliance with the breach reporting obligations. Breach reporting may be "an important part of the regulatory framework" but the Commission’s hearings (and the Interim Report) show that, “on more than one occasion”, Licensees materially failed to comply with this obligation. Worryingly, they appeared to have suffered no consequences as a result of their failures. ASIC’s Report 594 on compliance with the breach reporting obligations highlights the extent of, and reasons for these failures. This article looks at three key take-outs for Licensees seeking to avoid regulatory censure.

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Compliance, Culture and Compliance Culture

Smarter compliance. Despite their focus on conduct and disclosure, Regulators are increasingly turning their attention to licensees’ ‘culture’. It’s a reasonable approach if one ignores the reality that the definition is circular and that organisational culture is not monolithic; most large institutions are collections of disparate and disconnected cultures. Nevertheless, Regulators show no sign of abandoning this idea, so Licensees must consider how they can best demonstrate a ‘good culture’ and their commitment to key principles. Drawing on international examples, this article proposes ways in which this can be done.

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“Welcome to McDonalds”: Five Take-outs for advisers

NSG v ASIC aside, financial planners often struggle to find cases that clearly address their legal obligations and duties. Thankfully, McDonald v AMP Financial Planning Pty Limited [2018] QSC 195 addresses both the practice and process of financial planning and, as a consequence, highlights expectations that advisers need to adequately consider in their own businesses. Here we look at five key take-outs from McDonald’s case.

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Curated Content: Ignorance, hope and HODL

CURATED CONTENT: Despite the provocative nature of this article, we don’t have a particular view on Bitcoin, Ethereum and the various ICOs that attract investors’ attention. While we’re happy to skewer the more pretentious and ridiculous views, we have “strong opinions, loosely held” on cryptocurrencies. Given that advisers and investors are still intrigued by cryptocurrency, we’ve identified five sources that we find are particularly useful.

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August Addendum: Algorithms, admissions and enhancements

Smarter compliance. We’ve been thinking about you. Well, mostly about coding, ASIC and behavioural change, but also about you. We thought you might like to learn 20 ways to improve your compliance result, understand what changes have been made and get advance notice on the changes that are imminent. If you have questions try kye@assuredsupport.com.au or help@assuredsupport.com.au.

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Compliance Reviews: Livin' on a prayer

Smarter compliance. For over ten years, in various iterations, we've worked hard to develop a credible and fact-based alternative to institutional box-ticking. Abandoning the bureaucracy and arbitrary classifications so loved by institutional licensees, we pioneered reg-tech and built a consistent and predictable risk and conduct-based methodology that embeds transparency, comparability and granularity. We appreciate that the "sweet science" of compliance is not for everyone, but everyone can benefit from a little more knowledge. Addressing three "key myths" might not change your life, but it might provide the context and reassurance you need. 

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Adviser Reviews: You can be the best

One of the most surprising insights from completing hundreds of adviser reviews, is the relatively small number of advisers who are interested in moving 'beyond compliance'. The challenge is compounded by risk. Some licensees use compliance results as part of a balanced scorecard or as the basis for bonuses and promotion. So improving the quality of advice, and getting a better review result, has additional benefits. Assured Support's risk and conduct-based methodology expects compliance and rewards quality, so to help make your journey a little easier, we'll share seven steps you should take to achieve better review results. 

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Understanding compliance: The soundtrack

Most compliance people go through life with a song in their hearts and we’re no different (except are hearts and heads are stuffed with tangentially relevant pop music). Because no-one demanded it, we've made our playlist available to everyone. Our playlist contains every song referenced in our articles - even those you might not have identified. Enjoy the playlist and, if you find songs that we've omitted to include, please let us know.

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The writing’s on the wall: ASIC enforcement and focus

With the first half of the year now behind us, ASIC have recently released REP 585 (ASIC enforcement outcomes: January to June 2018). It highlights their activity in early 2018 (focusing on some notable successes) and looks forward to hint at what we can expect from them in the next six months. This article focuses on the report, ASIC’s plans for the remainder of 2018 and what they mean for Licensees and advisers.

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Design and Distribution Obligations: Better get a lawyer

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Design and Distribution Obligations and Product Intervention Powers) Bill 2018 may represent the most significant reform of financial services since the Financial Services Reform Act. The Bill threatens to reframe the development, distribution and enforcement of financial products and equips ASIC with a range of new enforcement options.This presentation provides a high level introduction to the Bill.

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And another thing, I've been wondering, lately

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has identified so many cultural, ethical and management failures that vertical dis-integration, Product Intervention Powers, BEAR and the imposition of Principal Integrity Officers are needed to restore trust. Ignoring current and proposed "regulatory catalysts", I'd suggest that re-defining 'Compliance' is a critical step to restoring trust and creating transparency and accountability.

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August Update: Ready to Spring

If you're focused on the future, and want to build a sustainable advice business, you'll want to find out more about openAFSL. You know that “minimal or technical compliance with the law” is not a worthwhile pursuit and, as a competent Licensee, you understand that regulatory technology is critical to you achieving that goal. OpenAFSL is the flexible and intuitive platform you need. Here’s why.

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