Pushpa Wood appointed Member of Financial Advice Code Committee

Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 8, 2024

Wellingtonian Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood, a prominent member of the financial community, has been appointed Member of the Financial Advice Code Committee, a high-level body that sets and advocates good ethical conduct and adherence to industry standards.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Andrew Bayly announced the appointment, emphasising the importance of the role and the need to have professionally qualified and highly experienced people.

This position is a Ministerial appointment and has been approved by the Cabinet.

“We need individuals who understand the complexities of financial advice and can contribute to the development of robust guidelines that protect consumers while promoting a thriving advisory industry,” Mr Bayly said.

He described the appointment of Dr Wood as ‘significant,’ and that the move will strengthen the financial advice sector and enhance consumer protection.

Mr Bayly understands the complexity of the financial sectors and the need to protect consumers amidst equally confounding laws and regulations. Before entering politics, he was involved with the financial services sector for more than 25 years. He owned a Merchant Bank and many businesses and served on the Boards of many companies, including a Financial Planning Company of which he was the Independent Chair.

Reforming the Financial Advisory Sector

He said that the Financial Advice Code Committee is an important body that ensures ethical conduct and adherence to industry standards.

“Its members are responsible for developing and maintaining the Financial Advice Code. The Code outlines the professional obligations and conduct expected of financial advisers,” he said and added that he is currently working on a series of reforms to improve the conditions and services of the sector.

“We are looking at the affordability regulations in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act as a part of our Coalition Agreement with the ACT Party and taking a broader view of the Consumer Finance Act. I am also considering the ways of improving the efficiency of the Financial Disputes Resolution System,” he said.

Mr Bayly said that he was concerned about the overbearing regulatory environment and its effect on financial advisors.

“Whilst the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) did a good job of transitioning advisors into the new licencing arrangements last March, we need to ensure that the industry remains a place in which people wish to work,” he said.

About the Financial Code

The Code of Professional Conduct for Financial Advice Services is prepared in accordance with Part 4 of Schedule 5 of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013. The Code supports the purposes of the Act, including promoting the confident and informed participation of businesses, investors and consumers in the financial markets, avoiding unnecessary compliance costs and ensuring the availability and quality of financial advice.

The Code Committee’s functions are to review the Code, recommend changes as it thinks fit and liaise with the Financial Markets Authority, the Minister, representatives of the financial advice industry and consumers about the development, review and implementation of the Code. In recommending any changes to the Code, the Code Committee is guided by the purposes of the Act.

About Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood

Dr Wood is the prime promoter of the Massey Fin-Ed Centre as its Director based in Wellington. Established in 2011 to help New Zealanders become more financially savvy by improving their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards money, the Centre is globally unique for the breadth of its work around financial capability, covering education, research and consultancy. It also runs courses and professional development programmes for both groups and individuals in personal financial management.

She was the first woman of Indian origin to be appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) by the late Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016. The Honour recognised her services to promote financial literacy and interfaith relations.

During a recent interview with Indian Newslink (March 10, 2024), she said that over the last decade, banking and money-related behaviours have changed drastically. The risks are higher and access to money is easier with Open Banking systems.

“That makes it vital to have a better understanding of money, our changing attitude towards financial management and the need to be aware of both the opportunities and precautions that need our attention. Understanding where your money goes is part of proper money management. Most teens spend the bulk of their money on food, clothing, accessories and cosmetics. A solid foundation of financial knowledge allows you to build and maintain a good credit standing and the earlier, the better,” she said.

Changing consumer behaviour

Dr Wood said that earlier generations have lived with the mindset of ‘First save, then spend’ but, the trend now is to ‘Borrow, Spend, Pay’ and the paying stage causes stress.

Emphasising the need for parents to be good role models and be prudent in their money skills, she said “As the first teachers, we need to ensure our children grow up with healthy money behaviour at home. This includes teaching them about basic ground rules about money at home, which can be strengthened by schools, tested once they go to university and then put in practice once they start working.”

Citations and Awards

Dr Wood was the first woman of Indian origin to be appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) by the late Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016. The Honour recognised her services to promote financial literacy and interfaith relations.

She was presented with the Special Dr Robert Lateef Khan (Senior) Commemoration Award for her services in various capacities to various communities in New Zealand at the Eight Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts and Culture Awards held in Auckland on June 20, 2022.

She made the Indian community and the world of linguists proud by earning an International Indian Language Award at the International Festival of Indian Languages held in New Delhi on January 13, 2023. The Award recognised Dr Wood for her contributions to the promotion of Indian languages overseas, mainly Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit in New Zealand.

She has been a singular advocate for the inclusion of Hindi in the New Zealand Curriculum for more than three decades, joined in later years by other enthusiasts of the language.

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