According to Andrew Conway, head of the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), the banking royal commission reinforced the importance of trust and appropriateness in advice given by professionals on financial matters, but that the ATO has similarly acknowledged a gap in the availability of this advice.
Mr Conway said that, given accountants are viewed by many Australians — particularly business owners — as a trusted adviser already, it makes sense for accountants to be able to fill this void.
“The Productivity Commission observed that 48 per cent of Australian adults indicated having unmet financial advice needs. So, obviously, there is an advice gap in Australia which needs to be addressed,” he said.
“Other research indicates that there is a gap between the fees that most consumers are prepared to pay and the average fees being charged by financial planners, with the majority of consumers being open to having reviews with someone else if it meant a reduction in fees.”
In a bid to address this mismatch between needs and available advice, Mr Conway said that the IPA has developed “a revised financial services licensing regime for qualified accountants, which recognises their existing qualifications and experience”.
“Members of the three professional accounting bodies are answerable to high levels of professional and ethical standards, subject to ongoing quality assurance evaluations, and must maintain currency of knowledge through committed and continuous professional development and training,” he said.
ASIC mandates that only holders of an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL), or are authorised by a licensed representative, are able to conduct a financial services business.