As financial advice becomes increasingly important and pertinent to more and more people, the need to professionalise the financial planning industry grows in tandem.

Associate Professor Mark Brimble has dedicated his academic energies to this field for a large part of his career, and now his work in the education of the next generation of financial advisors has gained new momentum with the award of an Office of Learning and Teaching National Teaching Fellowship.

He is one of only six academics nationwide to receive the $90,000 teaching fellowship in the 2013 round. The group also includes Professor Jeff Giddings from Griffith Law School.

Associate Professor Brimble, based at Griffith’s Logan campus, aims to enhance and sharpen the employability of finance graduates by using his fellowship to develop improved work-integrated learning standards across the industry.

“The economic and social importance of financial advice has become increasingly apparent as governments around the world seek to improve the quality of advice and resultant outcomes,” he says. “Behind this policy motive is the shift of emphasis from state-funded to self-funded retirement together with increasingly complex financial markets and products.”

He also points to evidence of “alarming” levels of financial illiteracy and an ageing and longer living population that wishes to retire earlier while maintaining living standards in retirement.

These factors, he believes, highlight an emerging need for a reliable, accessible and professional financial advice profession. Understanding the context in which the financial planner works is also crucial.

“Financial planning is a truly multidisciplinary field covering topics as wide ranging as investments, taxation, commercial law, consumer and behavioural psychology and business management.

Personal issue

“Money is a very sensitive and personal issue, an indicator of status and reputation; therefore the ability of the planner to communicate with the client, build a relationship with them and interpret the client’s assertions is critical to the quality of the advice outcomes.

“As a result, financial planning education focuses on the attainment of critical generic skills such as the ability to build rapport with clients.”

Since July 1 this year the Financial Planning Association requires an approved degree for membership. The Financial Planning Education Council (FPEC) has put in place a curriculum and accreditation framework for higher education providers, which sets out requirements for programs to be approved.

“Through the development of this framework FPEC identified that the inclusion of WIL in Financial Planning education is contentious on the following grounds: set up costs; building of industry relationships; lack of understanding of how WIL could work; logistical issues and lack of expertise in its administration; and development and delivery of WIL.

“It is also recognised that authentic learning environments such as WIL shorten the transition from financial planning student to professional.”

Internships, service learning and practicum have been the primary WIL models promoted in the financial planning education literature.

The fellowship aims to develop work-integrated learning standards that complement and are aligned with the National Financial Planning Curriculum and Accreditation Framework to improve student work readiness, graduate capabilities and employability

Associate Professor Brimble says this will be achieved by engaging stakeholders and building support for the development of WIL. New WIL tools and resources will be trialled, ultimately with the aim of providing a benchmark for professional practice experiences in financial planning degrees.

The development and enhancement of financial planning programs at Griffith’s Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics has long been a focus for Associate Professor Brimble, and in his roles as deputy chair of FPEC and co-chair of Financial Planning Academics Forum he has extended his work across industry.

“The teaching fellowship builds on this work and will help to professionalise financial planning. This is important both economically and socially for Australia.”