Does outsourcing put SMSF client data at risk?

Many financial advisers are engaging in offshore outsourcing, but there are smarter initiatives available that keep clients’ private financial data onshore while keeping jobs in Australia.

We are seeing a surge in Australian financial services firms outsourcing a large proportion of its operations to offshore providers. While it may be legal, many clients are oblivious to this practice as disclosure is buried in the fine print of the engagement letter.

I encourage SMSF financial advisers and accountants to rethink their strategy and look at competitive local options that offer smart initiatives and efficiencies.

An Australian-based adviser and SMSF partner is simply easier to work with – there are no issues with time zones, language barriers or having your instructions misinterpreted. Despite the remarkable power of cloud technology, on the flipside data is potentially more vulnerable with a higher likelihood of security breaches.

It cannot be denied that outsourcing offshore is significantly more complex compared to a business with all data stored locally. Having the entirety of a client’s SMSF work conducted in Australia is more efficient when it comes to delivery, producing better results with less friction. 

There are three key reasons why advisers need to keep clients’ private financial data onshore:

  1.       Innovation

To ensure fees remain competitive, innovation is important and using technology as an innovation-enabler rather than cheap labour sent offshore is key. Providers are driven to look for ways of leveraging smaller, higher cost teams and build more scalable systems that are not primarily dependent on a large pool of low wage workers. Advisers can partner with technology providers to go head-to-head in creating smarter initiatives and efficiencies onshore.

  1.       Value

Due to the perceived higher cost structure of an Australian-based SMSF administration partner, some businesses feel to boost their profit margin they need to engage in offshore labour. Pricing is a ‘hygiene’ factor only and a cheaper online compliance-only solution does not necessarily provide value. Value can be delivered in different ways including partnering with high quality, local experts at competitive rates who can communicate directly with an adviser to build relationships and share insights on how to grow their SMSF business.

  1.       Security

Offshore outsourced providers may give reams of information and documents detailing their data security policies, however it cannot be denied that outsourcing overseas adds another layer of complexity – especially when data security is breached. Unauthorised use or disclosure of tax file numbers is an offence under the Taxation Administration Act. The Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission also require adequate disclosure of:

  1. a)       The activities you will outsource;
  2. b)      The service provider;
  3. c)       How you will monitor the provision of service; and
  4. d)      Who will do the monitoring and how often.

Many trustees and advisers prefer all SMSF data remain in Australia. Automation is the key to working smarter in this day and age, and intelligent technology gives local advisers the leading edge over manpower. 

Additionally, keeping business onshore saves Australian jobs for graduates and those commencing a career in financial services. 

Kris Kitto, director, Superfund Wholesale

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