Advisers hold the key for accountants

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Gunilla Haglundh investigates how accountants feel about the new licensing regime, which comes into effect on 1 July 2016. It will involve extensive additional training and an applications process that could take longer than expected.

Financial planning group Premium Wealth say that accountants hoping to become licensed need to take steps sooner rather than later to prepare for the transition to the financial planning licensing world. According to Premium Wealth, only about a third of accountants plan to have a licensing framework in place by July. Financial planner at BKM Financial Planning Service in Melbourne, Christian Beltrame says this number sounds quite high, and thinks accounting businesses will be very cautious as they continue.

“I could be cynical and suggest the comments of one third outlined by Premium Wealth are exaggerated to suggest they are kicking a lot of goals,” he says. “I would say the accountants would like to be involved in giving SMSF advice, but that committing to do so is another matter entirely.”

Beltrame says offering such broad advice could mean losing the specialisation required to be on top of all issues. As such, accountants who go down this path really need to seek the knowledge/expertise of parties who have been doing this sort of stuff for a fair period.

He thinks the hardest thing for accountants will be learning to work with financial planners: “Accountants and financial planners are wired differently and there can be cultural collisions where an accounting firm brings on board an adviser who is not an accountant also. If parties are willing to be open, honest and focus on the pros that can outweigh the cons and commit to it working, then it follows that the benefits can flow.”

Brent McCartney, accountant and director at DFK Australia New Zealand, says “accountants are the trusted advisors on tax, business and personal wealth decision making in the industry and thus it follows that they extend their services to financial advice in the years to come.”

He thinks more are likely to follow this path, but agrees that adding another skill set could take away from an existing skill set, either immediately or over a period of time. “Doing ‘too much’, by way of having multiple skill sets can lead to missed opportunities and ultimately a dissatisfied client. So it would certainly require a commitment from the accountant/firm if they wish to go down such a path,” he says.

“From [an] accountant’s perspective who has not been involved in financial advice previous, the sooner they source knowledge from [financial advice professionals] the better. I would not be rushing, but would seek as much information as I could to make an informed evaluation.”

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