PAA and IFA reveal plans to launch new, unified organisation

The Institute of Financial Advisers and the Professional Advisers Association have told members they plan to create a new organisation: Financial Advice New Zealand

Bruce Cortesi

The two organisations said it was not a merger - IFA president Michael Dowling said it was possible that the IFA and PAA could continue to exist, even as a new organisation was launched.

PAA has about 1200 members, and IFA has 730. There are believed to be about 40 to 60 advisers who are members of both.

PAA chairman Bruce Cortesi emailed members saying the new organisation was about "not so much the people or the profession but what we represent – the advice".

"This is a huge opportunity for our industry and one that we think is worth talking about. In the coming weeks we’ll keep you posted on developments and what’s happening."

He said: "Our goal should be to make all New Zealanders financially better off. We should do it by promoting the relevance of advice to all consumers. We should do it through education and informed debate and discussion.

"We should do it by being recognised, trusted and respected. We should do it by having irreproachable values for our members We should do it openly, honestly and with pride and purpose.

"And we should do it by presenting a single, unified face, not for financial advisers – as we do now – but for financial advice."

Cortesi said the two associations had acknowledged there was a better way to promote advisers and advice. He said not enough was being done to communicate the value of advice to consumers, and consumer access to advice.

The new organisation would be better able to promote and endorse advisers, which would help the industry and consumers, he said.

Dowling said something had to be done to improve the level of financial advice New Zealanders were getting. The new organisation would work to build confidence in the industry as a whole, not just its own members. Members would be seen as trustworthy by consumers, he said.

"We won’t achieve the needed change simply with words or by continuing to rely on word-of-mouth from the good work done by advisers. We have to take action. We need to substantiate, support and evidence the consumer-centric nature of advice by giving the public a body that unambiguously represents their interests - Financial Advice New Zealand."

The two organisations have been working more closely together over recent times, with a joint conference and other events.

But until now they have rejected speculation that any formal moves were planned. Dowling said it was not a given that such a move would happen, despite the organisations having worked more closely together. "We went in not with the vision of a merger but thinking how we could do it better."

Adviser Simon Hassan said a new group would have more power in discussion with the regulator and with product suppliers. He said it should also be financially stronger. "The organisation should be strong enough to build and grow from here in a way that we haven't seen before."

He said he was not surprised by the move but was not excited by it, either.

He said he wanted to be part of a professional community that shared his focus on fee-based professionalism, put the clients' interests first and was not sales-driven.

"While these ideas will be encapsulated in the new body's stated objectives and so on they are trying to bring a large community of people who are quite diverse together."

Hassan said he would hope that within that group a smaller sub-set of financial planners with CFP qualifications might differentiate themselves.

He has until now been a member of both organisations.

The PAA and IFA will hold information sessions around the country in the week starting June 20. Each will then hold a special general meeting to allow members to vote on the proposal.

Cortesi said it was not yet possible to say how long it would take to set the organisation up if it were given the green light.

So far, about 90 per cent of adviser feedback had been positive, the pair said. Cortesi said it was an exciting opportunity for advisers to be part of the industry's future.

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