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Future Fit Advice

Is the SOA worth the paper it’s written on?

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9 months ago

We canvassed the industry to hear first-hand what advisers - and clients - need from the evolution of SoAs.

At more than 50 pages in length, statements of advice (SoAs) in their current form have become unwieldy documents that take at least 6.5 hours to produce and which many clients will never fully read. 

The shortcomings of the document are not lost on the industry, with a key recommendation of the Quality of Advice Review (QAR) being that SoAs are replaced with advice records that are fit for purpose.

With consultation currently being sought on the final design of the replacement, we canvassed a number of advisers to get their thoughts on where SoAs fall short and what needs to change to ensure advice records actually provide value for both advisers and clients. 

Here’s how Mat Tenison of TiK Financial Group sees SOAs.

“There’s a lot of stuff in there that’s not necessary. Clients don’t want or need that much detail. Advice should be around what clients want more than what the government thinks they need,” he explains. 

Tenison goes on to explain that he has to walk his clients through a statement of advice because clients rarely read through them.

“I take time to take clients through the entire SOA, but it’s a running joke with clients that they will re-read it when they want to go to sleep.”

“If you go to a doctor, you don’t expect them to go through every single health issue, they aren’t giving you a document on every virus and why they ruled them out. None of us want that and it’s the exact same for clients that come to advisers,” he continues. 

Costly and overwhelming

The FSC came out in a media statement saying that the current SOA process is adding around $5,000 to a client's bill.

Sufficient Fund’s James Millard points out it’s not just expensive, it’s  ‘overwhelming’ for clients. 

“We encourage them not to focus too heavily on this, and ensure we're there to answer questions as they come up so they don't get lost in the details,”  Millard  explains.

Shape Financial’s Shane Pestonji largely agrees, arguing a lot of the information in an SOA can be removed. 

“I personally feel SOA’s can be repetitive,” he says. 

“A lot of the information is quite extensive and difficult for clients to understand, especially those who have basic financial knowledge. 

How long should a SoA be?

One of the main issues with how SOA’s are currently presented is the incredible length of the document. 

While Tenison still thinks it’s important to go through each page of an SOA to make sure the client actually understands them, it still is a time-consuming process.

According to a report by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), these documents are too long and often contain language which a customer will not understand as well as other irrelevant information. 

“Template documents can be helpful, but the financial firm must take care to tailor the language used in the template to the client and delete irrelevant information,” the report says.

Tension agrees, saying they should be around a 10-page summary with hyperlinks to more information. 

It’s no longer the wild west

The number of rules and legislations to protect clients ‘from the wild west days in the past’ are no longer applicable, with the industry as a whole changing.

“The game has changed… the obligations we have, the best interest duties, how we charge clients, it’s all different.”

“Where if you had something short and concise, it would be better for the client, more affordable for the client and would stop advisers leaving the industry,” says Tenison.

It has become clear that industry professionals and clients believe that SoA’s need to be reformed. This will not only help more Aussies get financial advice, it will help relieve the pressure advisers currently face.

Updated 2 months ago
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