Griffith leads financial planning revolution

Mark Brimble with elbow on bookshelf
Associate Professor Mark Brimble says new guidelines for financial planning education represents a significant step forward for the industry.

As Australia’s financial planning industry makes a move towards a more professional and more robust future, Griffith University is leading the way with a program to match.

The Griffith Business School’s Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics was the first in the country to secure accreditation for its financial planning program last month under rigorous new industry guidelines.

The new accreditation framework, launched by the Financial Planning Education Council (FPEC) late last year, defines the financial planning curriculum for degree qualifications, establishing uniform standards for content, modes of delivery and assessment regimes across university programs where inconsistencies previously undermined perceptions of the quality and nature of such qualifications.

“For students completion of an accredited degree program is effectively a pathway to professional membership with the peak body (Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA)).” Associate Professor Mark Brimble from Griffith’s Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics says.

“There is now unprecedented, across-the-board clarity about the graduate outcomes expected for financial planners. The broader mandate is about professionalising the industry. The FPA now has an enforceable code of conduct, and an approved degree will be required for membership from July 1, 2013.”

Enhancing reputation

Associate Professor Brimble says the new framework, along with a renewed relationship between academics and the industry, will nurture a professional environment where the kind of irresponsible advice that leads to disastrous economic decisions and blights the financial planning industry’s reputation is minimised.

“There has been a notable swing towards quality service and professional service in this industry.

“With financial literacy now being pushed in schools, a greater awareness of what financial planning is about can be anticipated in the community. People will more aware about when it is a good idea to seek professional help and when to do it themselves.

“Professional associations are critical to future careers. Simultaneously quality of graduate is vital to the trustworthiness and ongoing strength of the associated industry. Griffith has taken the lead in this.

An expected knowledge and skills outcome for financial planning students is established by the new framework, the product of discussions between FPEC and the Financial Planning Academics Forum.

“Griffith University has been a leader in financial planning education for a long time, building a team of academics dedicated to this discipline,” Professor Christine Smith, head of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, said.

“We have runs on the board in this field, not least the financial planning stream in the professional development program run from our Logan campus as part of the Bachelor of Commerce (Professional) program. The industry has now taken action to address a problem and again Griffith is leading the way as the first university accredited under the new guidelines.”

How it works at Griffith

FPEC accreditation incorporates a major incentive into the Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Commerce programs for students aiming to complete the internationally-recognised Certified Financial Planner certification program after graduation.

The Bachelor of Commerce (Financial Planning) is offered on three campuses and in three modes-

(i) A traditional mode involving two semesters of study a year over three years full-time or six years part-time

(ii) An accelerated mode involving three trimesters of study a year over two years full-time or four years part-time studies

(iii) A professional mode incorporating three trimesters full-time followed by six trimesters part-time while employed part-time in a two-year paid internship with industry

The professional mode is a national awarding-winning program with a Business Higher Education Round Table Award in 2009 and an Australian Learning and Teaching Council award in 2011.

Griffith’s 24-course bachelor’s degree includes 15 courses required by the FPEC framework for financial planners (incorporating compliance with ASIC’s RG146). This leaves room for students to take a second major or other electives to complement their training in financial planning.

Accounting is a particularly attractive second major within these degrees. This combination offers dual accreditation with CPA (Certified Professional Accounting) and ICAA (Institute of Charted Accountants) for the accounting major and FPEC for the financial planning major,

The Masters program is 1.5 years full-time or three years part-time and includes 12 courses. The Masters degree also provides credits towards the Certified Financial Planner certification program reducing significantly the duration of this program post-graduation.

Possible credits for prior relevant study also exist at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.