The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAA) is drawing up a ‘preferred list’ of dealer groups for its financial planning members but will not be rating licence-holders, according to its head of superannuation and financial planning, Hugh Elvy.

Elvy said the Institute did not want to recommend one dealer group over another but rather wished to provide its financial planning members with a ‘starting point’ into the industry. The ICAA move mirrors the CPA Australia policy, which provides similar guidance for its members looking to join financial planning dealer groups. Both accounting bodies have agonised for years about the best way for their members to transition into financial planning, an industry they have traditionally viewed with suspicion. The ICAA announcement also coincided with the release of tough new financial planning standards last week, which were created jointly by the Institute and CPA Australia. The so-called APS 12 standards took effect yesterday and include strong provisions against members accepting ‘soft dollar’ benefits. Elvy is currently talking to at least six major accountant-based dealer groups – understood to include Count, Lonsdale and PIS – and hoped to finalise the preferred list by the end of November. “The couple of dealer groups I’ve spoken to so far are fine. They’re usually trying to build their own numbers in the majority of cases so they’re more than happy to be involved,” Elvy said. The list will be on the Institute’s website and will provide relevant contact points for the dealer groups, information on other accountants operating under those licences and detailed research on the groups. Elvy said there would be no financial arrangements with the dealer groups that made the list. The Institute already has a database of financial planning specialists on its website that accountant members can use for referrals. Elvy, who joined the ICAA in June, is actively encouraging members to become more involved in planning. They need to incorporate financial planning into their businesses by building a relationship with a financial planner or joining a dealer group, he said. CPA Australia offers similar advice to its members but also encourages them to consider gaining their own financial services licence. According to the CPA website, the body has also not ruled out forming its own dealer group, an option it appeared to have abandoned in 2003. A key strategy of many financial planning groups has been to sell broader financial advice packages to the clientbase of traditional accountancy businesses. The ICAA has 42,000 members of which approximately 2000 are currently involved in financial planning. CPA Australia claims over 100,000 members with at least 5000 active in financial planning.

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