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lending institutions towards planners not located in the major cities. “Institutions, I believe, are not fully on board in understanding the opportunities and the variances of the financial planning industry,” he says. “A lot of the approval processes for financing businesses goes back to a central point in capital cities, where they have to gain an appreciation for how a financial planning practice is run in a regional area without having one-on-one conversations. That in itself presents a problem.” Barber says the planners in his area often talk through these issues with one another to find ways of working around them.

Rodney Lavin, Lavin & Associates

impact on them. However, he agrees that the costs incurred by the regulations could have a greater impact on regional planners. Rantall adds that the proposed banning of insurance commissions inside super also had the potential to negatively impact on the profit of regional businesses. He says it will hamper their ability to offer pro-bono work, which tends to be in great need in the regional areas.

–– “Who have you got to blame if you don’t get involved, and I think in respect to these issues, we’re as engaged as city planners.”

“The commissions system on insurance has helped enable regional planners to deal with lower income earners, so regional planners particularly have an issue with banning commissions on risk insurance inside superannuation.”

Rodney Lavin The benefits The challenges regional planners may face are serious, but Lavin believes the benefits of a more balanced lifestyle far outweigh the challenges. Rantall believes regional planners also have material advantages over their city counterparts. Closeness to the community is a real strength that regional planners possess, and Rantall encourages those who are not already strongly involved in their communities to become so. “Offering pro-bono work, for example, would build a lot of credits in terms of the work they do as financial planners,” he says.

Regional planners may feel that it is more of a battle to get their concerns heard, and therefore Rantall urges them to get in touch with their local member of parliament. impossible to raise the funds necessary to run a major campaign on their own and in isolation.

Getting heard Any smaller financial planning practice, whether in the city or regional areas, could be faced with a considerable increase in operating costs should the FoFA reforms go through in their current form.

Regional planners can also become involved in the ‘Ask the Expert’ service, which is open to all planners, that runs over a six week period every year in conjunction with Financial Planning Week. The service enables consumers to access free advice online, and was so popular this year it attracted 245 queries in one month.

Rantall says while reforms like opt-in are of concern to all members, it was likely to have a greater impact on regional planners’ operating costs. Shadow Minister for Financial Services Mathias Cormann recently reaffirmed his opposition to the opt-in reform, which he described as bad policy that would increase red tape and costs for small businesses, particularly regional planners. He noted Treasury’s own figures that revealed opt-in would add $50,000 a year to operating costs.

Easier access to the local media is another important advantage, says Rantall.

Lavin says opt-in remains the biggest issue of concern among the members in his Chapter.

Closeness with local media means regional planners have an advantage in leveraging off the FPA’s new advertising campaign (see page 12). Advertisements are expected to appear throughout September and the campaign aims to raise awareness among all Australians that FPA members work to professional and ethical standards much higher than required by law.

“It’s just additional, unnecessary red tape. And it’s only being driven by politics,” he says. “It’s being driven to appease ‘friends’ of the Government, and that’s the most frustrating part. It’s just a lot of extra work that doesn’t achieve anything because people can opt-out of their agreement with their planner at any time.”

Rantall says the campaign will be of major assistance because smaller businesses often find it near

Regardless of what changes get implemented, Barber believes that regional planners have a trust advantage – closeness with clients makes it easier to explain and get clients to understand the changes that may

“We’ve provided an information kit detailing who those members of parliament are, where they are located, and how they should be addressed, and includes pro forma letters that they can send to their local member,” he says. All of this can be downloaded from the FPA website. Lavin says the Gippsland Chapter has advocated that local FPA members get in touch with their member of parliament. “Who have you got to blame if you don’t get involved, and I think in respect to these issues, we’re as engaged as city planners,” he says. Rantall says getting involved with your local Chapter was one way of feeling connected with your profession and with what is happening at a regulatory level. “Also get close to your local member of parliament, because generally there is a lack of knowledge about financial planners and the great work they do for clients,” he says. Lobbying by the FPA and others against certain FoFA proposals has already resulted in an acknowledgement by the Minster for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, that the Government may have to review its stand on the proposed ban on insurance commissions in super. However, speaking at the recent Financial Services Council conference, he said the Government would hold its ground on Opt-it.

financial planning | SEPTEMBER 2011 | 21

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