Financial advisers play a role in helping their clients in uncertain times and periods of significant share market volatility. This includes reassuring clients about their investment strategies as well as providing personal advice in response to their changing circumstances. These changes may involve employment status or external factors, such as legislative changes arising out of the economic stimulus package.
The current period is an opportunity for the financial advice industry to proactively support clients and reestablish trust within the community. ASIC encourages you to remain available and responsive to your clients.
The Corporations Act is neutral about technology and the way financial advice is delivered. You can give factual information and advice by telephone, email, internet, video conferencing or a combination of these. For example:
- client meetings and annual reviews can be conducted via phone or video conferencing, rather than face to face
- fee disclosure statements (FDS), renewal notices and opt-ins in respect of ongoing fee arrangements can be sent and received electronically and signed using an electronic signature if required
- advice documents (e.g. Statements of Advice (SOA) and (Financial Services Guides (FSGs)) can be sent and received electronically and signed using an electronic signature if required.
It is very important that you continue to keep records of the financial services you provide during the COVID-19 period. Your records should, for example, allow you to demonstrate that you have complied with the best interest duty and related obligations, which will be critical in the future if you receive a client complaint or if your file is audited. Records include more than just the fact find and SOA. They include other documents that support your advice such as working papers, research and file notes.
Further information about your record keeping obligations is set out in Regulatory Guide 175 Licensing: Financial product advisers – Conduct and disclosure (RG 175) and ASIC Class Order [CO 14/923].