Mayflower Consulting director Sarah Penn said while in theory the concept of online tools for producing statements of advice for accountants that aren’t licenced sounds good, in reality there isn’t a large market for these types of offerings.
“Accountants fall specifically into a couple of camps; either they’re purely accountants and most of those already have referral relationships with financial advisers, they already work in a firm that has both financial advice and accounting, or there are still a few accountants who think financial planning is crock so there’s no way they will pay to use an online version of the thing they think is terrible,” said Ms Penn.
“So then I’m not sure who’s left after that.”
Ms Penn said there have been lots of previous attempts by product providers to get accountants on board with other types of products, and while automated advice is not specifically a product, it’s another example of companies trying to get accountants to do something different with their business.
“There have been a lot of attempts by product providers to sell or ‘refer’ clients through to cash providers. Most of the big banks have had a crack at this one and gotten absolutely nowhere,” she said.
There have also been attempts, she said, to get them to sell insurance, “either general insurance like house and contents, business insurance for their business clients, or life insurance off the back of SMSFs”.
“On paper it all looks very reasonable, you’ve got an SMSF [client who] should make sure [they’ve] got all your insurances in place, and if they only want to talk to an accountant and don’t want to deal with an adviser, well it makes sense. So the product providers have had a go at that and the take-up has been nil,” she said.
“I just fundamentally don’t see how this is going to work. I think the driver for why cash, insurance and online financial planning isn’t going to work is that accountants are very risk-adverse. Accountants are experts in the thing that they’re experts in and most of them do not want to start discussing areas that they are not experts in, which is completely understandable.”
Accountants, she said, have done a lot of study and a lot of professional development to make sure they stay on top of the details.
“So they don’t really want to be talking to their clients about something that they’re really not across,” she said.