Lifespan warns on referral relationships

With just over a year until the phase-out of the accountants' exemption, Lifespan Financial Planning has warned accountants to establish written agreements before entering referral arrangements to avoid negative outcomes.

Speaking to SMSF Adviser, Lifespan Financial Planning compliance and general manager Eugene Ardino said it is essential that accountants and advisers “establish ground rules from the start” in order to create a successful referral relationship.

Mr Ardino said one of the obvious ways in which a referral relationship can go wrong is when no referrals result from the arrangement.

“This is often the result of the accountant not being 100 per cent comfortable with the process so it’s important the accountant and adviser both understand the advice process, the type of advice that’s going to be given ... [and the] strategies that will be recommended,” he said.

Mr Ardino said accountants are often scared of damaging their relationship with their client so advisers need to understand that and to try and accommodate their concern if they want to have a successful referral relationship.

“We encourage advisers and accountants to actually have a written agreement, so that it’s down on paper what the expectations and obligations of both parties are," he said.

“You don’t want there to be any surprises: accountants in our experience just won’t refer unless they’re completely comfortable and they understand what’s happening.”

Mr Ardino urged accountants who are not planning to apply for the limited or full licence or to become an authorised representative to seriously consider a referral relationship with an adviser.

“One of the risks from an accountant’s point of view of not being in a referral relationship is that other [groups] and institutions are getting into accounting,” he said.

“So if they’re giving advice for establishing an SMSF or general accounting advice, but they’ve got no solution for taking the advice a bit further, then their clients are likely to be cross-sold,” Mr Ardino said, noting that this could mean losing some of their accounting business.

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