Calls for RG 146 to be beefed up

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The first institution to be accredited under new financial planning education council guidelines has reported steady numbers of financial planning undergraduates – despite declining numbers throughout the business department overall.

Griffith University associate professor for finance Mark Brimble says that they currently have at least a few hundred students at the undergraduate level studying financial planning, not including their Gold Coast or Brisbane campuses. Brimble says the new guidelines for planners, set out by the Financial Planning Education Council, are helping to strengthen the curriculum – in particular, the development of communication skills and client interaction skills.

“In financial planning it’s a little bit different because, up until now, we haven’t had that defined pathway from degree to profession that the other professional bodies had…Now with the Financial Planning Education Council setting out national standards and guidelines for degrees and skills of students as a pathway to membership of the FPA, we’ve got clear guidelines for all universities and other education providers to follow.”

Brimble is hoping to see the new professional standards flow through the industry, and has been eagerly awaiting ASIC’s consultation paper on increasing the Australian qualification levels of RG 146.

“When you look at things like RG 146, they’re at such a low level in terms of being a level five diploma – which as we know, people have been able to cover off in three weeks. You compare that to a 24 course, three-year full-time degree…

“If the profession wants to say to the community at large that it’s OK to do three weeks of training and then become a financial planner, then one would anticipate that consumers would respond accordingly,” says Brimble.

“Quite frankly, those two- or three-week courses really don’t provide a good enough grounding for the complexity with what financial planners have to deal with these days – both with technical issues of dealing with products and advice, and all the issues of dealing with clients and engaging clients effectively in relationships.

“That’s the feedback we get from the businesses that recruit out students, they’re very happy with how well they are prepared and the level of knowledge they have, as opposed to the past where students have come in with a low level of knowledge and learnt a lot of it on the job."

Although ASIC has signalled that they’re increasing the levels of RG 146, the community will have to wait for the consultation paper to see if it will be taken to a degree level. First due in September, it has been pushed back to February, and last Brimble heard, it was due mid-March.

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