Before I start I need to make it clear there is plenty of evidence that good true independent financial advice that is provided in your best interest can add significant value.
But here’s the problem. Good independent financial advice that is in your best interest?
Five years ago, I left behind a typical conflicted financial planning model of charging percentage based fees and receiving commission because I was disillusioned by the conflict of interest inherit in this, all too common, business model.
Four years ago, I made a submission to the Senate Committee Financial System Inquiry on the future of the Australian Financial System. In the submission I claimed the industry is culturally driven by conflicted remuneration and the imperative to sell products. This statement was not a reflection on the personal morals or ethics of individual advisers in the industry, but on the structure of it, within which those individuals are required to work.
Back then I described the industry as riddled with conflict but was reluctant to call it corrupt. I was wrong. Nothing has changed and the industry is structurally broken and corrupted by the very structure it exists within.
Until there is a ban on all conflicted payments and incentives, not just some of them, little will change and the behaviour and current culture will remain. The industry knows that, but it is unwilling to act because most of it is structured as a vertically integrated product distribution network that has no real interest in structural and cultural reform that may jeopardise the flow of product sales.
In my submission I argued for an individual licensing regime, a ban on product manufacturers and suppliers from holding ownership in advice businesses, a ban on advice businesses from receiving any form of commission and a ban on percentage based fee structures.
Since then, I have strongly encouraged all consumers to follow Four Simple Steps to make sure you get the right financial advice for you.
In all that time I do not think anything has changed, this industry is still corrupted and riddled with conflict and quite frankly I have had a gut full.
I used to suggest if someone was considering using an adviser aligned with an institution to ask enough questions to ensure they get advice that is in their best interest, not the advisers nor the institutions.
But I am sick of it. Don’t even do that. Walk away. Don’t deal with them at all. If you currently use an aligned adviser…leave. If I was a client of any of the big banks or the large insurance companies, or an adviser that charges percentage based fees or excepts commissions I would take my business elsewhere immediately. If the adviser doesn’t want to lose you as a client tell them to leave that model and do the right thing and start offering independent advice.
Have the conversation with friends and family and don’t let this stop you or them from getting valuable advice that is your best interest. If you need to change…change.
Only when consumers vote with their feet and their wallets will meaningful change be made.
So be shocked, be disgusted but don’t be surprised by stories of how corrupted and conflicted this industry is.