The Beginning of Wisdom is the definition of Terms

Thus spake Socrates almost 2,600 years ago - and by this maxim, many scholars, academics, and researchers have lived, worked, and achieved great progress.

The accuracy of definition drives the clarity of meaning that is intended to be imparted to the recipient of the written or spoken word, and the greater the accuracy, the greater the clarity

This all seems as logical to us in the 21st century age of information as it did to Socrates in Ancient Greece.

But not perhaps to all of us.

It seems that the industry regulator in Australia has decided that some words, precisely defined and with pure clarity of meaning for the rest of the human race, are to be prohibited, banned, and proscribed forthwith, lest their true meaning be successfully interpreted by the mere mortals outwith their Olympian citadel.

A financial advisory business which is independently owned cannot, according to the ASIC proclamation, be described as such - even though it is.

In a thinly disguised attack on non-aligned financial advisers in Australia - the latest of a series of similar such scurrilous moves - ASIC has banned the use of these words as a descriptor for a privately owned financial advice enterprise.

This is a ludicrous ruling from an intrusive, unhelpful, and politically motivated regulator that should be shut down, fired, and kicked out of existence. The underlying, inherent bias in the attitude of ASIC and its personnel toward the private, non-institutional advisory sector is abhorrent and serves no useful constructive purpose. It most certainly does nothing to improve standards, or provide the slightest benefit to the consumer, nor does it instil confidence in the Australian financial services industry. 

While independently owned practices are not permitted to be described as such, financial adviser entities owned wholly or in part by those institutions referred to collectively as "the Big End of Town" (BEOT) are under no obligation to describes themselves any differently from those entities who are not under such ownership.

We now have the farcical situation of institutionally owned financial advisory practices not having to disclose ownership that could potentially give rise to conflicted advice and independently owned practices who cannot disclose ownership free as they are to offer advice without implicit shareholder influence.

At present, many Australian consumers are taking some BEOT players to task for misleading conduct, and ASIC is huffing and puffing around the issue, with all the righteous indignation of a latter day Colonel Blimp.

But how concerned is the regulator really?

Perhaps another literary figure from our more recent history provides a clue. Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy", pitched in with this thought:-

"Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allow otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through"

In this case, the careless use of the truth, and the words that witness the truth have revealed in ASIC a none too subtle attempt to ensure the BEOT's commercial interests are not threatened by those who would cast light on shady practices, products, and processes. What has seeped through their 2 years of deliberation is the truth that the regulator does not wish to see private, non-institutionally owned adviser entities operating in the market.

It is their clear preference that the Australian consumer is to be exposed to the tender mercies of BEOT without having to be held accountable for the standard or suitability of products and services provided.

To paraphrase George Orwell, it seems that from ASIC's perspective "All financial advisory practices are equal, but some are more equal than others".