Why do you want advice to be a profession?

Alex Burke,  Senior Writer,  No More Practice Education

Speaking at the Financial Services Council Summit in Sydney, Australian Unity's executive general manager - advice, Matt Brown, discussed the ongoing professionalisation of the advice industry. 

He noted that over five-to-10 years of coming to FSC and Financial Planning Association conferences, advisers have been “striving to be known as professionals.” 

“But what does that actually mean?” he asked. “We can focus on the tools and guardrails that need to be around advice, but what actually is a professional?” 

Brown said he’d “asked Google and the Oxford Dictionary” and came up with “simple definitions referring to a paid occupation that involves prolonged training and professional education,” but that this wasn’t thorough enough. Instead, he argued, “professionalisation” should involve two concepts.

The first, he said, was “being disinterested in your own interests; that is, only interested in finding all relevant facts and assessing those facts for the right course of action or inaction.” The second was the “tenure and expertise” associated with professions like law and medicine, which both involved the “right to self-assess and self-review.”

“If we take those as fundamental,” he said, “then you have to ask the uncomfortable question of why we want to be known as a profession. If it’s for some name recognition or self-interest, that’s flawed. We need to focus on the concept of social well-being or the greater good.” 

In this regard, Brown said Australian advisers are “on the right track,” adding that “the Royal Commission sharpened the need to reflect on what it means to be a profession. Most of the regulation has been good - the removal of conflicted remuneration, the building of a professional code and so on, are things you need to be in a profession.” 


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Is it therefore time to do away with the Licensee structure as well Matt? If a professional has the right to "self-assess and self review" should this extend to the everyday work we do? Should we start to have the conversations of registered advisers with a single code monitoring body (one only, not the current multiple) where our fees are payable via direct payment from a client (like other professionals) and we are required to buy in what are now typical licensee services (compliance audit, revenue consolidation and reporting, bulk PI arrangements, etc) through providers who compete on services and value? Should it be easy to change this service provider simply with the stroke of a pen rather than the complex dealings of changing AFSL's? The future will be an exciting and interesting place.

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