Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
After four years as FPA Chair, Neil Kendall CFP® steps down, but not before handing over the baton to the incoming chair, Marisa Broome CFP®. They reflect on the work done and the journey ahead for the profession.
Looking back at his eight years on the FPA Board, Neil Kendall CFP® is justifiably proud of the achievements the FPA has made, most notably moving down the path of professionalism by lifting the educational and professional standards of financial planners in Australia.
It’s been a challenging gig for the Brisbane-based planner, who after eight years on the Board with the past four years spent as FPA Chair, relinquishes his position on the Board at this year’s AGM in November. But it’s been a gig that Neil has revelled in, with his calming influence tempering tumultuous times for the profession.
Reflecting back over the past eight years, Neil says his motivation for joining the Board in 2010 and then to step into the Chair’s role in 2015, was borne out of a realisation of just how much work the FPA was doing for the profession.
“It was clear to me then, as it is now, that if I wanted to change the financial planning environment for the better, the FPA was the mechanism in which to do that,” Neil says.
“I’ve always held the view that if I can personally change the lives of 100 clients who I deal with or 1,000 clients’ lives through my practice, then through the FPA, we can change the lives of millions of Australians through financial planning. So, joining the FPA Board was my opportunity to help improve financial planning for all Australians.”
It’s a view shared by FPA Board member and incoming Chair, Marisa Broome CFP®.
“It was a simple decision to join the Board in 2015. I wanted to give back to the profession that I have benefited from and a profession that I am proud to be part of,” Marisa says.
In fact, Marisa has been involved with the FPA from the get-go. She fondly recalls attending the first FPA conference in Hobart and since then, she has served stints on various FPA committees, including a long association with the FPA Sydney Chapter.
However, Marisa confesses to having been asked to run for the FPA Board for a number of years, but running a successful business at the same time as having children at school, she didn’t think it was appropriate to do so until she was able to fully commit to the position.
“So, the year my last child finished school, I had the time that was necessary for being on the Board. I was successfully elected to the Board and re-elected last year for a second term.”
But what motivated Marisa to nominate for Chair of the FPA?
“I was asked to consider the role of FPA Chair. I knew this was an enormous commitment, so after a lot of thought, I believed I had the right skill set and vision to lead the Board. And more importantly, represent our members in the way that I would like to be represented as a member.”
Not only does Marisa take on the role with the full support of her fellow Board directors, but she reveals she has also been “in training” with Neil to ensure the baton of leadership is handed over smoothly.
“Neil has provided me with a great internship and I’m also fortunate to have an incredibly talented Board to be working with, which made my decision to take on the role, all the more easier,” Marisa says. “I feel the responsibility of this position deeply but it just strengthens my desire to make a real difference.”
Neil is quietly satisfied with the achievements the FPA and Board have been able to deliver to members over his eight year tenure, but when asked to pick some highlights, he is typically pragmatic in his response.
“As the FPA Chair, I haven’t achieved anything. Instead, it’s been the FPA in its entirety that has achieved things. I am only one tiny cog in a massive machine. The Chair and Board work through the FPA staff and membership to achieve outcomes.”
However, when pressed, Neil does highlight a couple of achievements over the past four years that he believes are particularly noteworthy for the FPA, including ticking off on a couple of long-term milestones. At the top of the list is enshrining the terms ‘financial planner’ and ‘financial adviser’ in law.
“By enshrining these terms in law, it means they can only be used if a planner is qualified and licensed. That’s something that has been on the FPA’s agenda for 20 years. So, this is a huge step forward for the profession,” he says.
The realisation of another long-term goal was achieved in September this year, when the federal Attorney General approved financial planners as signatories for statutory declarations. The significance of the decision is not lost on Neil, who adds: “This is the Government saying to consumers that financial planners are people you can trust.”
“This decision to secure recognition of planners as an additional category of people who are authorised to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration, is a massive step forward for the profession. The decision is in part due to having those terms enshrined in law, as well as having defined education standards and code monitoring requirements.
“The message to the community from Government is that financial planners are trustworthy. That’s a really positive step forward, and something the FPA has been working on for over 20 years.”
The decision is a particularly important one for Marisa, who concedes that the issue of ‘trust in financial advice’ has taken a hit over recent years.
“But I also see the issue of ‘trust’ as being an opportunity we can seize and build on through the new code monitoring environment planners will be working under. And the fact that the Government has approved planners to witness statutory declarations, shows that the Government trusts the profession, which will help to rebuild trust in consumers,” she says.
Devil in the detail
But while the profession has made some significant gains over the past four years, as Neil vacates his role as Chair, he believes FASEA and potentially stronger regulation for the profession will provide both challenges and opportunities for the profession.
“FASEA is quite interesting,” he says. “For most FPA members, I don’t expect FASEA to be a big change. FPA practitioner membership now requires a degree, it requires code monitoring, there is an exam linked to the CFP® Certification Program, and there are ongoing CPD requirements. So, FASEA is effectively going to take the FPA philosophy about good advice, to all financial planners – not just FPA practitioner members.
“For most members, while the effects of FASEA may be inconvenient, they will be relatively minor. In fact, the overall effect will be positive in terms of lifting the minimum standard for all financial planners – and that’s not a bad thing.”
But like all things, the devil will be in the detail, and in terms of FASEA’s final recommendations for the profession, both Neil and Marisa remain hopeful that commonsense will prevail in recognising existing study completed by planners, compared to those who haven’t completed any.
And while Marisa agrees there are immediate challenges around helping members meet the FASEA requirements and the outcomes of the Royal Commission, she believes the FPA’s key strategies haven’t altered.
“Our fundamental goal is to have more Australians receive quality financial advice that makes a meaningful difference in their lives. That message underpins everything the Board does, and everything that Dante De Gori CFP® and his wonderful team do.”
Marisa says this will be achieved in three ways: through professional standards; through quality education; and through consumer engagement and education.
“The three of these are linked. Together, they will help us rebuild trust in the advice process and encourage more people to seek advice. For many years now, these three pillars have been the central part of the FPA’s strategy.”
It’s a strategy supported by Neil, who remains characteristically upbeat about the future for the FPA and the profession.
“I actually think the future looks really good for the profession,” he says. “Potentially, gaining entry into the profession will become more restricted, which means there may be less financial planners practising. So, those planners who are prepared to meet the new standards are going to be in a good position.
“Looking forward, I expect there to be less problems for the profession. So, it will be a future of less competition and more opportunity for the profession.”
Marisa shares Neil’s excitement for the future.
“What excites me most about our profession is the fact that we are a profession. I am a very proud CFP® practitioner and I wear that pin with pride. I know I make a difference to the lives of my clients and I know our members do as well.
“I want more Australians to seek and receive advice that will make a difference to their lives.”
The journey continues
When asked to talk about his legacy as Chair of the FPA, Neil is typically uncomfortable. It’s not a subject he enjoys addressing.
“I’m happy to say that I leave the Board and my role as Chair without any unfinished business,” he says. And the reason for that?
“Well, it’s because this is not the end of our journey. I’m merely passing over the baton to the next Chair. The fact that I was the Chair for four years, wasn’t the start of something. And the fact that I am no longer the Chair, isn’t the end of something. It’s the continuation of our journey.
“The FPA will simply continue along its pathway. There is always going to be work required to improve financial planning for consumers, but I don’t see this as being the beginning or the end of that process. Instead, I see it as a continuation of the good work that we’re doing.”
But perhaps if there is one thing that Neil would like to be remembered for it’s for the consistency of his message that he has delivered to members over the past four years: What we do as planners makes a meaningful and positive difference in our clients’ lives.
“That is the standard we should always be testing our advice against,” he says.
So, what advice does Neil have for the incoming chair?
“Absolutely none,” he says. “Marisa has been an active FPA Board member for the last four years, so she is on the FPA journey and knows where we are heading as a profession. Marisa knows what she is doing and doesn’t need my advice.”
It’s a sentiment that monetarily catches Marisa off guard: “I’m committed to the journey ahead of us and all the challenges facing the profession. In fact, when haven’t we had change? We have always adapted to change and we will continue to do so.
“Team FPA is exceptional. From the volunteer work that our members do on the various committees and consultative groups, to the work of the Board, and the tireless work done by the staff at the FPA; through all this hard work, we’re able to deal with and embrace change.”
Turning challenges into opportunities
Under her stewardship, Marisa says the FPA will continue to focus on the three pillars of its strategy: strong professional standards; a focus on professional education; and engagement with consumers around quality advice.
“By doing so, this will enable us to reset the agenda and focus on consumers seeking quality financial advice, while at the same time, building a story centred on trust and the improved standards of FPA practitioner members. This message will be at the core of how we develop our responses, particularly in relation to consumer expectations of the profession.
“So, this is very much a team effort. I am incredibly proud and honoured to be the Chair, and I am most proud of the effort and commitment that so many within the profession demonstrate every day and the level of passion that goes with that.”
In taking up the reins as Chair of the FPA, Marisa openly acknowledges that while challenges lay ahead for the profession, there are also opportunities.
“Undoubtedly, there is a question of trust with financial advice, but that’s an opportunity for us to seize upon and build on through the new code monitoring environment we will be working under.
“I actually see more opportunity in that than challenge or threat, but I have always been up for a challenge!”