Growing focus on improving SMSF specialist advice welcomed

There is a growing recognition of the critical importance of ensuring that self managed super fund (SMSF) trustees have access to specialist SMSF advice, says SMSF Association CEO John Maroney. 

“This growing momentum for advisers to have specialist SMSF qualifications is being actively encouraged by regulatory bodies, with the latest example being recent draft guidance from the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) that highlights the need for specialist advice.

“What is just as important is the acknowledgement by the advice industry of the pressing need for specialist qualifications, with the Association witnessing an increase in demand for the SMSF Specialist Advisor (SSA) program and other specialist qualifications. 

“Over the three-month period to 30 September 2020, the number of practitioners registering for the SSA program has increased by more than 40 per cent compared with the previous three-month period,” Mr Maroney says. 

In the Q&A quoted in FASEA’s new draft guidance, it says: “As an adviser, I have basic knowledge in SMSF that I learnt when undertaking an approved Graduate Diploma. My client has requested specialist SMSF advice involving a number of complex issues. Should I provide the advice to the client? 

“Answer: In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the adviser to seek the assistance of another adviser with the specialist SMSF skills before giving advice or refer the client to another adviser with the necessary competency. If the adviser wished to give this type of advice in the future, they should undertake additional SMSF specialist study and training before doing so.” 

Maroney says it’s long been the Association’s mantra to raise the standards of SMSF advice via specific educational programs as part of its mission to lead the professionalism, integrity and sustainability of the $700 billion SMSF sector and to ensure the best interests of clients are always given highest priority. 

“So, it’s gratifying that a growing number of advisers are seeking to enhance their specialist knowledge, realising that by doing so they are enhancing the viability of our superannuation sector. 

“This is particularly relevant at a time when the broader superannuation industry is focussing on performance and fees. One outcome could be a growing demand for SMSFs, so it’s important advisers are qualified to determine the appropriateness of SMSFs for their clients and, if they proceed, to be able to handle complex issues that may later arise.”