Financial Planning
Down but not out: Top advisers adapt

Latest figures from ASIC's Financial Adviser Register (FAR) paint a telling picture of the state of Australia's financial  advice sector, with close to 3000 advisers dropping out of the industry since February.

According to Rainmaker analysis, the official number of active advisers has now plummeted from 28,650 to 25,865 - meaning 2804 have exited.

In the same period, just 19 new advisers registered on the ASIC FAR.

Much of the movement is attributable to large institutions culling or downsizing their wealth operations.

After exiting personal advice, Westpac lost 338 advisers since February - the most of any licensee. Securitor shed 146 advisers over the same period, bringing its total to just 85.

Magnitude lost 79 advisers, going from 116 to just 37.

Viridian picked up 76, after buying 90 advisers from Westpac.

While Lifespan, Affinia and Paragem gained from Westpac's exit, a further 147 former Westpac advisers have so far failed to join another licensee.

Commonwealth Financial Planning shed 213 advisers, while Count Financial - recently sold to CountPlus - lost 74.

Godfrey Pembroke dropped 40 advisers in the six months and MLC Wealth has now said it will consolidate the Apogee, Meritum and Garvan licensees, indicating further
possible exits.

Meanwhile, NAB itself dropped 32 advisers, to bring its total to 478, while JBWere lost six.

AMP and its aligned dealer groups have contracted too, with a combined total of 187 advisers leaving.

This could be just the start however, given AMP's plans to "reshape" its aligned
advice offering.

The figures paint a picture of an industry undergoing dramatic disruption, Rainmaker executive director of research Alex Dunnin says.

"This is not just due to the impacts of the Royal Commission, FASEA or FoFA, but the combined effects of dramatic change over many years.

"Product providers significantly changing their business models, the introduction of new technology and distribution models just reinforces this," he says.

"A core part of the perception problem advisers are facing is the government and regulators appear to see them as a commodity."

While exits were always expected, national chair of AFA Inspire and co-chief executive of Multiforte Kate McCallum is concerned so few new advisers have entered - particularly in light of the new educational standards which include a professional year requirement.

"How do we make sure we get the brightest and the best?" McCallum asks.

"There are not efficient frameworks about the professional year and who can provide it. We're making it so hard for people entering the industry."

She called for creative thinking and collaboration to better structure the professional year for fledgling advisers.

Evalesco director and personal financial adviser Jeff Thurecht says his business has plans to take on aspiring advisers and train them and is lucky to have the resources to do so.

However, he says it's important to be realistic with new staff about the fact that they might not be an authorised representative from day one - as getting to that point is a huge investment of time and money for the business.

The industry must also consider the impact the current environment will have on ordinary people seeking advice, Ferguson Financial Planning director Tracey Ferguson says.

Reflecting on more than 20 years as an adviser, Ferguson is busier than ever and she puts it down to more people understanding the value of advice.

However, with fewer advisers, she fears a supply and demand issue is on the horizon that will price those most in need out of the market.

"There is definite scope for financial advice to be more highly priced and in some cases out of the reach of the people who need it," she says.

But advisers are already doing it tough and it remains to be seen when the weight will lift, with Ferguson saying most "are just keeping their heads above water".

For some, McCallum fears, the combined forces of change will prove too much, saying: "Where we're headed to is the right direction but we've been given a steep climb and a heavy backpack."

Read more: WestpacASICFerguson Financial PlanningMultiforte Kate McCallumAFA InspireAffiniaAlex DunninApogeeCommonwealth Financial PlanningCount FinancialCountPlusFASEAGarvanGodfrey PembrokeJeff ThurechtLifespanMeritumMLC WealthParagemRoyal CommissionSecuritorTracey FergusonViridian
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