SOA, disclosure documents in need of overhaul
The way information is provided to SMSF clients on advice and financial products needs a significant shake-up, with few clients actually reading statements of advice or other disclosure documents.
Speaking at a recent discussion panel, BGL managing director Ron Lesh said any document that is more than two pages long, including statements of advice (SOAs), is not going to be read by clients.
“We need to get to the two-page SOA because we’re just wasting our time producing all these huge documents that nobod[y] reads. It comes back to how we present the results. If it’s more than a page or a page and a half, people don’t read it,” Mr Lesh said, speaking at the SMSF Association National Conference.
“I get some fantastic investment reports from some places, and they are one page for one-quarter. They don’t need to give me explanations of how the market is and all this other stuff that doesn’t interest me because I’m getting the same thing from everybody. All I want to know is how this particular investment performed, and really that can be summarised on one page.”
Speaking on the same panel, SMSF Association chief executive John Maroney agreed that statements of advice are hardly read by anybody and that this information could be delivered in a more valuable form.
“[For example], you could have a video recording of the Zoom chat where you talked about it and a five- or 10-minute summary [of what was discussed]. That would be far more valuable record of what was said and understood,” Mr Maroney explained.
“[That could be] the primary evidence of the conversation that happened, and then the signing of the documents would just be a formality that doesn’t need to stand on its own because it’s being supported by the primary evidence.”
OpenInvest chief executive Andrew Varlamos said investors want a simple explanation of what they own and why they own rather than lots of pages with charts.
“If US markets are down overnight, they know that the ASX is going to be affected. They want to know whether they should be worried? That could be conveyed in a 30-second video from a chief investment officer that pops up on someone’s app at 9am,” said Mr Varlamos.
“[That way] people are going to feel reassured, they’re going to have an easier day [than] if they’re waiting till the end of the quarter or the month to get a five-page PDF document.”
Investment Trends head of research Dr Irene Guiamatsia said one of the things ASIC explored with its Beyond Disclosure research it conducted with the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets was whether people actually read product disclosure statements.
“The answer, and the regulator knows this, was an emphatic ‘no’, so why are we still producing these massive long PDFs that no one reads?” said Dr Guiamatsia.
“I don’t think it’s a big mystery that this is not delivering what we actually need.”
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.