Financial Planning
Priced out: Advice affordability at risk

The issue of affordability is plaguing the financial advice industry, further compounded by recent action taken by both AMP and MLC Wealth.

Speaking at the recent Association of Financial Advisers' National Conference, AFA general manager of policy and professionalism Phil Anderson argued the affordability of advice for ordinary Australians is under threat.

Anderson pointed to the original objectives of the Future of Financial Advice reforms, which include ensuring the availability, accessibility and affordability of high-quality financial advice.

This was reinforced by the Royal Commission's which directed legislators to consider the impact any changes might have on the industry's ability to achieve this.

Anderson argued it has become clear that reforms will result in advice becoming more expensive - or unaffordable altogether - for the average Australian.

A submission by ASIC to the Royal Commission last year stated: "Many of the recent and ongoing reforms designed to lift conduct standards for advisers are likely to also increase the direct cost to consumers."

"There is reason to question whether viable business models will evolve that will provide broad affordable access to personal financial advice to all Australian consumers who need financial advice."

ASIC's Report 627 Financial advice: What consumers really think, found Australians view cost as the main barrier to accessing advice.

Lifespan Financial Planning chief executive Eugene Ardino says at the same time research revealed Australians view advice as too expensive, the industry is having reforms thrust upon it that could substantially increase costs.

"The government should be looking at ways to get more people into advice rather than increasing the barriers such as cost and creating trust issues by blaming advisers for things that are out of their control, such as product failures," Ardino said.

"The recently announced legislation to remove trailing commissions from the industry has not given due weighting to the fact that commissions act as a vital funding mechanism for Australians who cannot afford to pay high fees to access financial advice."

Connect Financial Services chief executive Paul Tynan says it's clear advice is on its way to becoming prohibitively expensive for the average Australian.

This is evidenced by decisions from MLC Wealth and AMP to restructure their advice offerings, with MLC Wealth consolidating its licensees while leaving HNW-focused Godfrey Pembroke untouched and AMP forcing many of its firms with smaller FUMs to merge or sell.

"It's the red tape, the added costs, the business costs, getting new employees in this business. It's easier to go out and sell real estate," he says.

Tynan is regularly consulting with advisers who need to sell large portions of their book they can no longer afford to service.

He thinks as more advisers leave the industry, advice will only become less and less affordable.

EQ Wealth director Simone Du Chesne is also concerned about the future of affordable advice.

"I find it incredibly ironic that accessing financial advice has become the privilege of the middle class and that those who may need it most or just as much as any other Australian,  are not able to afford to see an adviser," Du Chesne says.

She says the cost of providing compliant advice is "uncommercial" due to all that is required before the initial Statement of Advice is presented.

"While I appreciate and support the need for operating in a compliant manner when providing advice, I believe the paperwork has become onerous," Du Chesne adds.

"I believe the advice process may eventually be split into two parts - specialist holistic advice and more general limited advice."

Meanwhile, Master Your Money Now's Chris Carlin says there is opportunity amid the upheaval.

About 70% of Carlin's clients are under 40 and he rarely sees super balances of six figures.

"I wanted to have a focus on helping regular people - particularly teachers and nurses - because my parents are teachers and my partner's a nurse," Carlin says.

Carlin says by keeping overheads extremely low and relying on technology to streamline administration he's been able to build a profitable business model.

But, even he acknowledges: "If insurance and mortgage commissions go then advice will become unaffordable for ordinary Australians."

This comes after MetLife research found 60% of advice clients believe the removal of life risk commissions would increase underinsurance.

While the research found a majority of clients were willing to pay an upfront fee - the fee they were willing to pay was far below what it actually costs an adviser to implement an insurance plan.

It costs advisers around $5000 to complete such a plan, the research found consumers were willing to pay just $1100-$1300 in upfront fees.

Tynan too, is passionate about the benefits commissions can have in keeping the cost of advice down.

"Commissions were originally created because people didn't want to pay for advice," he says.

"If you take away commissions it becomes unaffordable for most people."

Read more: ASICRoyal CommissionAFAAssociation of Financial AdvisersChris CarlinEQ WealthFuture of Financial AdviceGodfrey PembrokeMetLifePaul TynanPhil AndersonSimone Du Chesne
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