Financial planners are living a nightmare, but not for the reasons you might assume. The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has left the industry in tatters and it is the honest financial planners who are being pushed out, not just bad apples.
The royal commission focused on huge commissions being earned on insurance, institutionally aligned product flogging and some seriously rotten apple trees and bad apples. We have now moved mostly to a fee for service model with product sales secondary to good advice - all good things. But the regulatory requirements placed upon advisers are now so onerous that we have created a situation that has ruined the lives of many financial advisers and left vulnerable Australians without access to good, trustworthy financial advice.
So how did this happen?
It is estimated that 6000 practising financial advisers have left the industry in the past year or so, from an initial total of over 25,000 advisers. Estimates show within two years there may only be 10,000 financial advisers left to service a population of 25 million people.
There are stories of double-digit suicides within the industry, much higher than community averages and for every suicide there are dozens more who are experiencing serious mental health issues.
The regulations were introduced to push out the bad apples including licensing changes and constant changes to legislation that advisers must comply with and follow. Females, part-timers, single parents, people in their 50s and 60s with years of experience and a clean history are leaving the industry because the cost of licensing and meeting the new requirements is so high that they cannot afford to remain in the industry or they are too close to retirement for it to be worth it.
Ironically, the rotten apples who don't follow the rules can afford to succeed because they don't have the burden of compliance, while those doing everything right can't afford to operate. The most worrying part is that the cost increases mean all but the wealthiest members of our society are now priced out of getting financial advice. Pro-bono advice was previously commonly supplied to people who couldn't afford to see a financial adviser but that is now unviable.
Still don't care about the financial planners doing it tough? Consider this. You are a caring, ethical planner. You have done all the required study, maintained association membership and followed codes of ethics. You have helped dozens of people who have been ripped off by other advisers, commonly from banks or large institutions. Then the politicians announce a Royal Commission. You think it's great. You can't wait to see the bad guys caught out, see financial planning cleaned up.
But then your qualifications are no longer valid and you are required to do years more study that will cost thousands and won't teach you much, just to continue.
Your business costs and time taken to legally service your clients doubles or trebles overnight. You are now spending 90 per cent of your time on compliance and only 10 per cent seeing clients. Then your licensee folds.
You have to tell clients on low fees to "go away" because you can't afford them. And because of the publicity of those bad apples during the royal commission, most people won't listen to the issues in the industry - not even ASIC.
All the while, the bad guys just continue on their merry way because they weren't following the rules anyway and never plan to. ASIC doesn't care because they are busy dealing with the big guns.
As a former financial planner, I went into the profession because I really loved making a difference in people's lives. But as one of the female planners with family needs, when the laws changed and meant I could only afford to work with the rich and get them richer, like many other honest and hardworking financial planners, I had to leave the industry. Hiring someone to assist, particularly in a practice with a tagline of "financial planning for real people" was impossible.
People need good advice more than ever before but the cost of providing it has never been higher.
We need smarter change, not more layers of band-aid solutions. The duplicated legislation wasting time needs to be re-worked so each client is informed, not overloaded. And the regulators need to listen to the reports from the good advisers who are trying to clean up the profession. Currently many reports to ASIC are not even being investigated.
Simpler rules, one set of regulators instead of four, and some good old fashioned consistent financial literacy education for consumers would go a long way to correct the poor reforms to date.
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