FMA's Samantha Barrass highlights transformation of financial advice sector

CEO delves into regulatory changes and collaborative success

FMA's Samantha Barrass highlights transformation of financial advice sector

Insurance News

By Roxanne Libatique

Financial Markets Authority (FMA) chief executive Samantha Barrass, in her address at the Financial Advice New Zealand (FANZ) Thrive Conference, shed light on the strides made within New Zealand's financial advice sector.

Her reflections centred on the sector's successful navigation through the implementation of a new regulatory landscape that came into effect almost a year ago. This period, according to Barrass, marked a milestone in her career for the seamless transition it represented.

Collaboration between FMA and the industry

Highlighting the pivotal role of the FMA as the conduct regulator for insurers, banks, and non-bank deposit takers, Barrass detailed how the insights gained from industry partnerships are shaping a more inclusive regulatory approach.

“The lessons we have learned working with you, across the wide range and different scales of business models in this sector, will be harnessed in our approach to bringing firms – and particularly the smaller firms – across the line for the Conduct of Financial Institutions [CoFI] regime. We will be engaging with all these firms in preparation for CoFI, about how they interact with you, their distributors,” she said.

Financial advisers' resilience

Barrass also touched upon the resilience displayed by financial advisers amidst numerous challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters, and economic uncertainties.

“It's fair to say the industry – and especially financial advisers – have been up against adversity and upheaval for a number of years with the COVID pandemic followed by catastrophic, climate-related events, and the increased cost of living making business for you, and life for your clients, incredibly unsettling. Added to these external shocks is the backdrop of economic, social, and geopolitical upheaval we continue to face from global events, along with economic headwinds at home – we can see you navigating this uncertainty in the environment as best as you can,” she said.

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Role of insurance in financial security

The address delved into the significant role of insurance in fostering financial stability and security, highlighting the underinsurance issue in New Zealand.

“Insurance plays an incredibly important role in protecting well-being and financial security. There are still large segments of Aotearoa NZ underinsured. For those that are, they are facing increasing complexity in the way products work and the risks that are weighing on their policies, be it health, life insurance, or home and general, as climate impacts start to bite. This is where your advice and guidance come to the fore – as a trusted partner,” she said.

Barrass further discussed the evolving landscape of financial advice, marked by the emergence of “finfluencers” and the adoption of fintech innovations such as robo-advice, as opportunities to refine and expand the reach of financial guidance.

Concluding her speech, Barrass reiterated the FMA's dedication to ensuring the effectiveness of the new regulatory regimes for both the industry and consumers.

“Our priorities now are to ensure that new regimes are bedding in well for industry and consumers. We'll also be working with government to support their proposals to streamline regulations in our sector and ensure the Twin Peaks model is working well,” she said.

The 2024 Thrive Conference, sponsored by AIA NZ, brought together insurance advisers, mortgage advisers, investment advisers, and financial planners from across New Zealand.

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