Licensing regime set for ‘problems down the track’
The chief executive of an online investment platform has voiced concerns similar to other firms and associations in the SMSF industry about the current operation of the licensing regime for accountants.
OpenInvest chief executive Andrew Varlamos said the licensing regime had been overly onerous on accountants and was in need of an overhaul in a recent panel hosted by the SMSF Association and the ATO.
“There have been a few comments made as the panel has progressed. We have talked about the importance of SMSF trustees having diversification within their fund; we have talked about multigenerational risks, cognitive decline and the inevitability of death that everyone faces. Michael [Blomfield] made a great comment about the two-thirds of SMSFs who do not receive financial advice. We talked about the need for education,” said Mr Varlamos.
“You almost get to a point where you realise this is a serious problem. If only there was a broadly distributed, university educated cohort of people who are professionals who actually deal with most of these unadvised SMSFs, because they could really help. But, of course, there are; they are called accountants.”
While Mr Varlamos said he did not want to be too critical of the licensing regime, he said the government should consider making some amendments to what accountants can assist their clients with before crossing into the realm of providing financial advice.
“I certainly don’t argue that we should just bring back the SMSF exemption, but the solution to the problem we have has to involve tinkering or refining the licensing regime that we have so that accountants can be brought in and allowed, without risk of feeling like they have crossed the boundary into providing financial advice, to provide assistance to the clients about the things they know about,” he explained.
“They know about diversification, risks and structures without a licensing regime that is overly onerous on them.”
Mr Varlamos said the licensing regime needs to recognise that financial advice is not one big lump.
“It can be broken down into different components, such as structuring, contribution strategies and pension strategies,” he said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.