Financial planners fess up on complaints

A key financial planning industry group has made public its register of complaints against members for the first time in an effort to increase transparency and accountability in the industry.

The Financial Planning Association has received 130 complaints from consumers against member financial planners between January 2007 and March 2008.

Of those, formal disciplinary action has been taken in 10% of cases, while 52 complaints are still being investigated.

Financial planners who breach ethical or professional conduct standards can be hit with penalties including suspension, fines of up to $20,000 and expulsion from the FPA – a penalty imposed on four financial planners over the past year.

The FPA has decided to make its complaint register public in an attempt to increase professional accountability and transparency in the sector, FPA General Manager Professionalism Deen Sanders says.
“For the financial planning profession to maintain a high standard of professional accountability for the benefit of all our members and their clients, it is vital that the FPA continue its commitment to clear and decisive action as the professional body for financial planning,” Sanders says.

The number of complaints received since January 2007 is about usual, Sanders says, but the composition is not, with 14 of the complaints and seven instances of disciplinary action relating to the Westpoint financial planning scandal.

Although the FPA only names financial planners who have breached standards in more serious cases, Sanders says consumers professional penalties have real teeth, with financial planners who have been suspended or expelled often prevented from working again in the profession.

“We’re working with ASIC to improve the recruitment process to ensure licencees check references and with us about a persons performance and that will usually prevent them working if they‘ve been banned or suspended,” Sander says.

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