It’s not asking for much. People just want advice they can trust.
This basic standard of care in my profession, financial planning, can be variable.
ASIC, the government watchdog, has pages of information dedicated to helping people find the right adviser for them (perhaps the amount of info they have produced sends a message in itself - be careful!). They recommend a series of questions about qualifications, experience, who the adviser is licensed to etc. etc. All really valid questions, you can find them here. I strongly suggest you use them.
But if it were me looking for an adviser, the answers to the following questions would be of the most interest to me.
Why? Because they all relate to “Conflict Of Interest”.
The highly publicised failure of Storm and the more recent advice issues with Macquarie and Commonwealth Banks (and pretty much every scandal in between), has a Conflict of Interest at the core of the poor advice practice.
Let there be no mistake, advice is too often distorted by Conflicts of Interest like commissions, sales incentives and other kickbacks and ties to big financial institutions and product providers.
The question, “How do I pay you”, is not just about how much you have to pay, but how that is calculated. Fees are typically based on a percentage of how much you have invested. The more you invest, the more the adviser earns. And for your adviser to be continue to be paid, you must remain invested. Think about that next time you ask about buying a property or going to cash. Ask “why” your adviser charges this way?
While some financial professionals only make money directly from clients, the second question – the who else one — can reveal other sources of income that may represent a conflict of interest. Compensation can include things like commissions, bonuses, fee sharing arrangements, marketing allowances, sponsorships, product margins or other sales incentives based on the products or services sold to you.
As a follow-up, you can ask, “What other benefits do you get if I buy your product?”
Most planners work for, or are aligned to, product distribution. They are, therefore, incentivised to sell those products.
And what can be really telling is how people react to these questions.
I want to stress that answering “Yes” to any of these questions doesn't mean you can’t or shouldn't work with these professionals. It's just information you need so you can put the advice you receive in context. You need to know what conflicts influence the recommendations you receive so you can weigh up whether the advice really is best for you. Only then can you begin to understand if the professional sitting across from you is the right person to give you advice you can trust.
The lives of most of Australians would be improved by quality financial advice. If you or clients are seeking advice, make sure it is the right type - fixed fees with no conflicts and ties to product providers. More on that here.
Disclaimer - This article and/or opinion is based on generally available information and is not intended to provide you with financial advice or take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider obtaining financial, tax or accounting advice on whether this information is suitable for your circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information. See full Terms and Conditions here.