Your 5 AFSL options As all professionals in the accountancy sector would be well aware of by now, big changes are imminent to the level of financial services advice accountants can provide to their clients. If you are yet to take any action, you must do so now or risk being left behind. What are the changes?

In late 2013, the federal government announced sweeping changes to the financial services sector. The Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms were aimed at improving transparency and regulation to protect Australian investors and ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of high-quality financial advice.

As well as providing business and taxation advice, accountants are currently permitted, under a temporary exemption allowed under the FoFA rules, to provide clients with advice on their superannuation,
including the establishment or winding up of a self-managed superannuation fund.

conto paypal per opzioni binarie That exemption will be removed from 1 July 2016. Any firm that provides specific advice to clients on SMSFs or superannuation, insurance and financial investments, and is not licensed to do so, will be in breach of the Corporations Law.

strategia infallibile per opzioni binarie Those providing advice will need to have completed the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Regulatory Guide 146 (RG 146) qualification, while individual accredited courses also must be completed to provide advice on superannuation, insurance and specific securities.

The exceptions under the definition of financial products, in terms of providing advice, are direct property and credit facilities, as long as advice does not relate to an SMSF. Accounting firms will not need to be licensed if they only provide clients with general factual information unrelated to financial products. Your five options

The pathway you choose on the FoFA reforms is ultimately a business decision. The accounting sector is facing many challenges, with new online technologies set to significantly reduce the volume of customers requiring the completion of simple annual tax returns.

On the other hand, a significant opportunity exists for accounting firms that can provide specific investment advice to their clients.

Here are the five options from which you must choose:

  1. Get out of the accounting sector altogether. While this sounds drastic, it may be a viable option for many accountants running small firms who are close to retirement and have an opportunity to either sell their business or their client database to another firm. If this option is on the radar, you need to get your business valued and initiate discussions as soon as possible.
  2. Stay in the sector, but refer clients requiring advice to a firm with an AFSL or to a financial planning group. For those who think FoFA is in the too-hard basket, and who believe they can continue to provide general business and taxation advice and generate external income via referrals, this may be a sensible option.
  3. Become an authorised representative (AR) of an AFSL holder. This option would enable you to provide financial advice under the umbrella of a licensee, who would be responsible for ensuring all compliance with the licence obligations. An AR receives a Letter of Authority to provide advice from a licensee. It enables access to licensee resources and practicemanagement support, and transfers risk and responsibility back to the licensee. However, resources and the cost structure will vary greatly between licensees, so extensive research is required when choosing a licensee. The IPA has three AFSL licensee partners that can assist you, if you choose this option.
  4. Apply to ASIC for a full or limited AFSL. A full AFSL from ASIC enables a firm to provide detailed, specific product advice and investment recommendations. However, the process of obtaining a full licence is both arduous and costly. Expect to pay anything up to about $100,000 to prepare an AFSL application and $10,000–$20,000 a year in compliance and audit costs. Once licensed, a firm will also need to implement and maintain strict internal compliance systems and risk management processes, and enact external dispute resolution networks to remain fully compliant. All employees providing advice must have appropriate educational qualifications (RG 146) and maintain professional development credits. A full licence is unlikely to be appropriate for most accountants who have not previously advised in financial services and who don’t wish to become full-time financial advisers. A limited AFSL from ASIC would allow you to provide advice on SMSFs as a product, superannuation at the class-ofproduct level, securities at the class-of-product level, simple managed investment schemes as defined in the Corporations Regulations, general and life insurance at the class-ofproduct level, and basic deposit products.
  5. Combine a limited licence with a referral network. This is a viable option for an accounting firm wanting to retain a direct link with their clients on an advice level, but without wanting all the compliance hassles and costs of holding a full AFSL. A referral network with one or more firms holding a full AFSL can create a lucrative revenue stream on top of the provision of general business, taxation and product advice. Time to take action

It’s time to make a decision on the option that is best for you. There’s simply no time to waste.

Those providing financial advice who intend to continue doing so will need to gain a limited or full AFSL through ASIC. Details are available at

Those needing to complete the RG 146 educational accreditation can do so with a range of accredited course providers. The IPA’s partner is Mentor Education, and further information can be found on the IPA website. Fast-track and online study options are available.

Accreditation is offered by a number of online or on-site course providers, with each RG 146 module requiring one to two days for completion in a workshop setting, preceded by around two to three weeks of reading pre-course materials. Education costs are in the $1,500 to $3,000 range per module, with the completion of four tier I modules (financial advice, superannuation, life insurance and investment) required to complete a full Diploma of Financial Planning.

The IPA is providing assistance to members with their ASIC applications. It has established partnerships with external providers to assist with AR connections, referral networks and limited and full licences. This includes a partnership with Shadforth (owned by IOOF), to provide a formal network arrangement that also provides a revenue stream for members.

Once you are licensed, the IPA’s partners offer packages to assist with documentation, templates, checklists, how-to guides (especially disclosure obligations), samples (fact-finds, FSGs, SOAs, engagement letters, invoicing for scaled advice) and technical assistance.

The IPA’s PPQA Online (quality assurance program) has added SMSF and financial advice modules, and can be used as both a business diagnostic tool and for compliance reporting to ASIC.

The IPA can also assist members with ongoing liaison with ASIC to avoid non-compliance. Want to know more?

For more information, contact Vicki Stylianou at or (03) 8665 3100, or visit the IPA website:

2 thoughts on “Your 5 AFSL options

  • October 4, 2017 at 10:58 am

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  • December 3, 2017 at 9:59 am

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