Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
FPA Board member, David Sharpe CFP® believes it’s time the profession resets the media narrative as it moves forward.
With three active sons, two footy teams to coach, regular media commitments, as well as running his own self-licensed financial planning practice, by anybody’s reckoning, David Sharpe lives a fairly hectic life.
And things don’t slow down for the Perth-based CFP® practitioner, who in 2016 was shortlisted as one of the top three CFP® professionals in Australia. He has also served as Chair of the FPA Western Australia Chapter before being elected to the FPA Board in November 2016.
But with such demands on his personal and professional time, why would the 40-year-old seek nomination for the FPA Board?
It’s a question the self-confessed “regular dad” is happy to answer: “Through my role as Chair of the Western Australia Chapter, I was inspired by the work the FPA was doing. As I have always been very community-minded, the decision to become more involved with my own professional community, by nominating for the Board, was an easy one to make.
“The way I see it, if you want to make a difference, then roll up your sleeves and get involved.”
As part of his Board responsibilities, David also chairs the Professional Standards and Conduct Committee and is a member of the Governance and Remuneration Committee.
Top three issues
But first and foremost, David is a small business owner, running Globe Financial Planning – a boutique financial services firm located in West Perth. And like the practitioner members he represents on the Board, he also faces the same types of challenges they do running their financial planning practices on a daily basis.
So, what does he see as being the top three issues currently confronting him as a professional?
For David, it’s dealing with regulation and red tape, changing the media narrative on financial planning, and the engagement of students for the future of the profession.
“The top issue would be the amount of regulation and red tape the profession is facing, and the amount of work planners have to do just to deliver advice to our clients,” he says.
David also identifies planner angst with the media narrative about the profession, as another topical issue.
“You only need to look at the narrative in the media that’s been around for the last 18 months about the profession, which has been highlighted by the Royal Commission. While there have been some planners who have done the wrong thing, the vast majority of my colleagues do the right thing every day. They improve the lives of their clients, but we don’t get to hear those good news stories. So, we need to change the narrative and focus on those many good news stories,” he says.
And the third issue that David identifies is what he calls a “sleeper issue” – ensuring the future of the profession by engaging with today’s students.
“There’s a lot of talk about planners leaving the profession as a result of the new FASEA standards. And even if that doesn’t happen, there’s still going to be some natural attrition of planners. However, now that we’ve got significant barriers for entry to the profession, there’s going to be a time lag before new planners are actually qualified to deliver advice.
“The challenge for the profession will be engaging with students about financial planning as a career, so that in five to seven years’ time, we’ve actually got new planners entering the profession.”
The board is responding
Having identified his top three issues confronting the profession, how is David and the FPA executive responding to them?
1. Regulation and red tape
In relation to increased regulation and red tape, David says the FPA has a good working relationship with all the regulators. He concedes that while the FPA doesn’t always get its way on regulatory policy, it nonetheless strenuously lobbies the regulators for sensible outcomes for the profession.
As a case in point, he refers to the recent FASEA education requirements. According to David, prior to the FASEA legislation, there was a push from some sectors of the industry to see all existing planners having to obtain an undergraduate degree, plus sit an exam every two years. That meant under the initial guidelines of 2017, 91 per cent of FPA practitioner members would have needed to do a Graduate Diploma.
However, after considerable work over a year presenting the case for recognition of much of the study already undertaken by planners, the FPA was able to secure sensible outcomes, with approximately 50 per cent of FPA members only needing to do one unit (the Code of Ethics course), with approximately 15 per cent of members having to do between three and seven units, a further 30 per cent between four and eight units, and fewer than 5 per cent of members having to complete eight units.
“This would not have been possible without all the hard work the FPA did on behalf of its members,” says David. “It’s the result of the FPA’s pragmatic approach to prosecuting a case based on reason and objectivity. It’s something the FPA does a lot of but we don’t do a good job of communicating these achievements to the wider membership, and that needs to change.”
David also identifies a range of tools and resources the FPA has designed to help members adapt to the changing advice landscape, including the Return to Learn online education and study hub, the FASEA Code of Ethics toolkit, the Match My Planner tool, fintech evaluation tools and the National Roadshow.
2. Changing the narrative
When it comes to changing the media narrative about financial planning, David has taken a personal approach. For a number of years now, David has ‘walked the talk’ by becoming a regular contributor in the media, particularly with Perth’s Channel 9 and radio 6PR.
“I decided to become involved with the media because I wanted to be a voice that was positive for our profession,” he says. “I wanted to reach out to consumers by providing them with practical tips.”
The FPA’s Money & Life consumer website is also helping to change the narrative by uncovering those “good news” stories and sharing them with the wider community.
“My aim is to raise the profession to a level where, just like the Australian Medical Association, it is consulted by the media as a first point of reference, particularly in relation to Government policy on personal finance.”
3. Student engagement
To help raise greater awareness of financial planning as a career for students, the FPA is working closely with universities in relation to FASEA compliant courses. In fact, David enjoys an active involvement with Curtin University and working with local high school students.
“I spend a lot of time meeting with students and talking to them about financial planning and the various pathways available to them to make this a career. The FPA encourages this type of grassroots involvement.”
He also points to the FPA Emerging Professionals Network, which is aimed at increasing student awareness of financial planning as a career. The network comprises of young FPA professionals, who actively seek to raise awareness of financial planning to secondary and tertiary students. “These initiatives are all helping to safeguard the future of the profession,” David says.
Health and wellbeing
With the profession facing such rapid change, David is acutely aware of the challenges planners face with their mental health and wellbeing. It’s a topic close to his heart.
“The issue of mental health and wellbeing is massive,” David says. “Financial planners are frequently dealing with client tragedies that are very confronting. And then they have their own personal issues to deal with. Many planners are running their own practices too, which can be very isolating.”
Running his own self-licensed practice, David manages his health and wellbeing by participating in a peer networking group, which enables him to openly talk about his challenges and successes in a supportive environment.
“A problem shared, is a problem halved,” he says. “We often get caught up in the day-to-day, so taking the time to talk about our stresses and challenges with others, does make a difference. I encourage planners, particularly sole practitioners, to join a peer networking group. It’s a great opportunity to support others, while being supported yourself.”
And while David concedes he runs a fairly full work schedule, he still ensures he puts time aside for his family. Part of that involves coaching two of his sons’ footy teams at the Kingsley Junior Football Club.
“Whether it’s footy or cricket, most of my weekends are spent at sporting fields,” he laughs. “But this time is incredibly precious to me and as a coach, even for a kids’ team, it keeps me well-grounded. My family is a constant reminder to me of what’s truly important in life, which is the key to my personal wellbeing.”