GUEST COLUMNIST – KATRINA SHANKS
After almost two years in the making, Financial Advice NZ launched its Trusted Adviser quality service mark last month. Here, the organisation’s CEO Katrina Shanks, writes that she is looking forward to presenting it to the public.
Aspirational and consumer-centric, the Trusted Adviser quality service mark is open to all Financial Advice NZ members who meet specific qualifying criteria, at a level higher than that required by the legislation.
Here’s why I believe this initiative will help build consumer trust around financial advice, right when New Zealanders need such services the most.
A mark of trust
The new quality mark is designed to signify trust and embody the core values of quality financial advice. With ‘trust’ being the foundational building block of an effective client-adviser relationship, the choice felt natural.
For eligible Financial Advice NZ members, the Trusted Adviser mark is a way to differentiate themselves, with a visible symbol that their commitment to professionalism has been recognised by a professional body. What’s more, the mark is a step in the pathway between our membership, and the financial advice pinnacle marks of CLUCM and CFPCM.
To qualify, advisers need to meet a five-fold ‘test’ including qualification, experience, and ethics – not only achieving but surpassing the legislative requirements.
In terms of qualification, advisers need to have attained a New Zealand Certificate in Financial Services (Level 5), with strands relevant to the type of advice they offer, or a higher qualification recognised by Financial Advice NZ.
But the qualification alone isn’t enough – proven experience and continuing professional development are also required. Advisers need to have at least three years’ experience in financial advice. Plus, they need to be committed to an annual continuing professional development (CPD) with a minimum 20 hours of CPD gained each year.
In a changing environment, professional development is more than just a nice-to-have; it’s an essential trust-building tool. It goes to show advisers are keeping up-to-date and taking all the appropriate steps to ensure their advice stays relevant to their clients’ needs. Having a CPD requirement is pivotal to maintaining public confidence.
Ethics is a crucial focus. Eligible advisers must attend at least a three-hour Ethics in Financial Services workshop every three years.
And finally they must have appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance as expected of a professional.
It’s easy to understand why this criterion is important. We know trust is not a given, it’s earned, and it starts with high ethical standards across the board. The new Code of Conduct is setting the ground rules, and as a professional body, we are committed to building upon them by making ethics central to our purpose.
Financial Advice NZ is committed to backing our members by supporting quality advice, and building public confidence around it.
A lot of work and extensive feedback from our members has gone into the definition of what a Trusted Adviser looks like. We know that credibility is the currency of the financial advice sector, and it stems from proven competence, high levels of professionalism and ethical focus.
While the Trusted Adviser mark is not compulsory for our members, nor part of the licensing process, it is a pathway that advisers can take to further evidence their commitment to professionalism and to good consumer outcomes.
What comes next
‘Trust’ is a promise that we’re expected to keep, and at Financial Advice NZ, we’re committed to making sure the Trusted Adviser mark is earned.
Applications are currently open so that eligible advisers can obtain the mark in time for the new regime. We estimate that about 400 of our Financial Advice NZ members already meet the criteria, and more will be joining in the coming year.
In the meantime, come February, we will introduce the new Trusted Adviser mark to the public. Of course, this won’t be a one-off initiative. To make it an effective communication tool, we need to back the mark with ongoing promotional activities via the available channels. We’re already planning for it, and look forward to showing our members what we have in store.
Visit Financial Advice NZ to learn more and submit your application form.