Update on FASEA code guidance on the way

Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority chief executive Stephen Glenfield has confirmed more guidance on the contested Code of Ethics is imminent.

Speaking to Financial Standard at the FPA Professionals Congress, Glenfield confirmed FASEA is aiming to have either a full guidance note or additional guidance on the Code of Ethics released by 1 January 2020.

"People want to know, can my existing form of business exist? Am I able to charge in the way I usually charge? They want to know what they have to do to meet standard 7 or standard 3," he said.

"Clearly we need to help with the guidance on that."

During the FPA Congress, Glenfield fielded many questions from financial planners.

When asked what question he'd had the most during the course of the event, he said: "How do I interpret standard 3?"

"I think the guidance will seek to provide clarity across the standards. What we don't want to do is get down to something that just speaks about one standard, because that doesn't sit with how the code is intended," Glenfield said.

"It's understandable, people want me to tell them that their income is appropriate. But the standard is about them exercising their professional judgement, stepping back and asking whether what they are charging is consistent with what the code is trying to achieve across its values and standards."

He said the update to the guidance would seek to clarify standard 3 but made it clear that FASEA wants the Code of Ethics to be viewed in its entirety, and wants to discourage picking apart each standard or statement within the code.

"I think  people would like more and more guidance which is a challenge. Ethics doesn't lend itself to a check list - you can't think of it as if you mark off 20 points you've covered every angle," Glenfield said.

"It's the way you work, the way you live and the way you deal with your clients that will lead you to understand whether in any situation what you're doing is the right thing for the client and putting them first. What we seek to do is pick the prime examples and give some guidance around that, it's showing you how to apply the code."

FPA chief executive Dante De Gori told Financial Standard: "Irrespective of how clear the guidance is, technically speaking what you're held against and judged against is the code itself."

With the Code of Ethics being the legislative instrument and the guidance only acting as a supporting document, De Gori's concerns remain despite Glenfield's calls to view the code holistically.

"Our concern is that you only need guidance if there is ambiguity in the code," De Gori said.

"It doesn't matter how good the guidance is. Courts of law and other regulatory bodies that might look at the Code of Ethics - how will they interpret it?

"FASEA creates the Code of Ethics but they don't enforce it. So in creating the code they can provide as much guidance as they can but they are not the ones who will ever enforce one standard of the code or hold one financial planner accountable to the code.

"Therefore their interpretation of the code becomes almost irrelevant once this thing really goes live."

Glenfield also confirmed FASEA only has a team of 10 staff, but maintained that it would be able to undertake the task of providing more clarity on the code before the compliance deadline.

"I have a very strong working team," Glenfield said.

"It is what we do, we don't have other functions."

"We've managed," Glenfield said of FASEA's funding.

"It's not a huge regulator with a great big budget but we operate within the bounds of the budget and to date we have demonstrated an ability to put those standards out."

Read more: Code of EthicsFASEAStephen GlenfieldEthics AuthorityDante De GoriFPA Professional Congress
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