Consumer trust in the financial planning industry has dropped 2% in the last 12 months, according to the latest figures from Roy Morgan.
Findings from the research house's 2017 Superannuation and Wealth Management in Australia report shows trust in financial planners for ethics and honesty sits at just 25% - the same as in 2009 when the survey was first introduced.
This may be partly driven by confusion around which planners provide independent financial advice, Roy Morgan suggests.
Many consumers view institutionally-owned advice groups with different branding to their parent company as independent, while almost a quarter of consumers considered a planner from a major fund manager to be independent.
The research also suggests further mistrust is fuelled by planners favouring their own company's products, with 74.9% of advisers across all major financial planning groups selling their own products.
Despite this, satisfaction levels across the industry when it comes to superannuation performance are increasing.
Those who purchase superannuation through an independent financial planner/adviser were the most satisfied at 71.3% (up 5.6%), followed by those who purchased through an accountant at 68.8% (2.8% increase). Financial planners working for financial institutions ranked third at 68.4% - up 4.9% on the prior corresponding period.
Australians least satisfied with the investment performance of superannuation were the 56.6% that acquired the product through their employer. This is a cause for industry concern as 81.9% of products were purchased via this channel in the last 12 months, Roy Morgan said.
"Our research shows those who seek independent professional advice are much more satisfied with the performance of their superannuation. However, it seems confusion and mistrust cause many people to avoid seeking financial advice altogether," Roy Morgan industry communications director Norman Morris said.
If they can overcome the mistrust, the findings represent a major opportunity for advisers to find new ways to engage Australians, particularly younger demographics, he added.
"Making financial advice more accessible to Australian's should be a key focus for the industry, to improve investment returns, build wealth and grow member satisfaction. But the industry needs to examine this research very carefully and respond quickly," Morris said.