The Financial Ombudsman Service believes that a minimal number of disputes will escalate to the dispute resolution body when accountants shift over to the AFSL regime in July next year.
Alison Maynard, Ombudsman, FOS Australia, said accountants do not want to spend their time dealing with disputes over potential SMSF issues and will try to resolve issues at an early stage.
“My expectation with accountants is that there will be a very low number of disputes coming to FOS,” she noted.
Ms Maynard compared accountants with stockbrokers, a profession that has also seen minimal dispute cases in dealing with the Ombudsman.
“That’s what a professional does. Try to resolve issues. If a client has issues, they want them sorted, and they want to retain the client,” she added.
Ms Maynard indicated that while the Ombudsman had yet to decide on any cases that deal with best interests duty, the onus would likely be placed on the accountant to show that “safe harbour steps” had been undertaken.
In an attempt to ensure that dispute numbers stay at a minimum, Ms Maynard and FOS also outlined key advice features designed to assist accountants in providing quality advice when recommending an SMSF product to a prospective client.
Clearly defining a scope of advice, as well as setting prioritised, specific and measurable goals were, according to Ms Maynard, vital to ensuring that quality advice is delivered.
Ms Maynard concluded by stressing that the existing insurance situation of the client must be taken into account since a failure to do so has been a prevalent issue in FOS dealings in recent times.
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