Note: This article is updated regularly when new financial advisers join the independence club (latest update October 2018). A financial adviser does not have to be a member of the IFAAA to join the SuperGuide list, provided they can declare that they satisfy the requirements of being an independent adviser (we now have 3 categories). Anyone seeking an independent adviser needs to conduct their own research on whether an adviser is truly independent – this article will help you with this research.
One of the promising developments from the financial advice reforms is the proposal to establish a public register of financial advisers, including employee advisers, which consumers can access to check the adviser qualifications and whether the adviser is licensed. It appears the register will not disclose whether a financial adviser is ‘independent’.
Until the government or the financial advising industry creates a comprehensive list of financial advisers that consumers/investors can use to verify the professionalism of an adviser, his or her qualifications, the ownership of the advising firm and an adviser’s independence, I anticipate that SuperGuide will continue to publish this unique list of 124 independent advisers. We hope that many more independent advisers will come forward, or choose to move into the ‘independent’ category.
Does Australia really only have 124 independent advisers?
Before you ask the obvious question, let me say, we have asked the same question: How do we know that the 124 advisers in the SuperGuide list are the only independent financial advisers advisers in Australia?
Well, we don’t! We know anecdotally that there are plenty more independent advisers working away in adviserland. At least we’re hoping that in a country of 25 million people that there are many more independent financial advisers working away for their clients too busy to have time to register for this very exclusive list.
Let’s hope SuperGuide’s updated publication of the ‘group of 124’ inspires other independent advisers to make themselves known (if they exist), or inspires others to become truly independent.
Open invitation to independent advisers
Background: Way back in February 2010, we published a list of 14 independent advisers which triggered much controversy and angst from the financial services industry, and fromSuperGuide readers. In April 2011, SuperGuide was at it again, and the number of truly independent advisers in Australia had halved – to 7! In February 2012, for the third year in a row, we published an updated list of 9 truly independent advisers.
In June 2012, we again published the updated list of independent advisers but we split the types of independent advisers into 3 categories: more on those categories later in the article. As at October 2018, we now have 124 independent financial advisers on the SuperGuide list.
Since June 2012, we have slightly changed the process involved in compiling the SuperGuide list of independent advisers because we essentially have two definitions of independence:
The Corporations Act 2001 definition of ‘independence’ which allows advisers to charge asset-based fees
The IFAAA definition of independence, which excludes those advisers who charge asset-based fees.
We have also published an open invitation to all independent advisers to contact SuperGuide. We will add the names of the independent advisers to the SuperGuide list, subject to the adviser declaring they satisfy each limb of the independence requirements.
Note: The adviser will not need to be a member of the IFAAA to join the SuperGuide list (see end of article for link to invitation and for form to sign). The IFAAA has a stricter definition for independence than the independence definition contained in the Corporations Act. We have a second category for those advisers who satisfy the stricter IFAAA definition but choose not to be a member of IFAAA. We have also created a third category for those advisers who satisfy the Corporations Act definition of independence, which means they may also charge asset-based fees.
What does an IFAAA independent adviser look like?
According to Daniel Brammall, President of the Independent Financial Advisers Association of Australia Limited (IFAAA), the IFAAA receives quite a few calls from financial advisers seeking to be members of the association, and Brammall sends out plenty of application forms.
“In spite of all the conversations I have with advisers interested in joining, so far these members [53 advisers in the updated list below] are the only ones who have successfully passed the IFAAA’s Gold Standard of Independence test,” says Brammall.
According to Brammall, the three requirements for the IFAAA’s Gold Standard of Independence are:
You can’t be affiliated with a bank, insurance or investment company (that is, a product manufacturer).
You can’t receive commissions of any sort – including insurance commissions – unless you refund them in full to the client.
You can’t charge asset-based fees (that is, a percentage of client assets under advice or under management).”
Independence remains an issue
Although the ban on commissions for future retail investment products (including managed investments, superannuation and margin loans) is history making (effective since July 2013), the question of independence (or lack of) remains an issue beyond July 2013.
In the past I have made the comment that I have found the debate surrounding commissions and ownership and independence of financial advice rather depressing because the Government and financial planning industry and commentators were trying to change the industry from the bottom – dragging the worst advisers (in terms of independence) to a level that was a little bit better than ‘worst’. I stated that such an approach was destined to countless setbacks (and ultimately failure) because the broader financial planning industry as it is historically structured is a product distribution model rather than a financial advisory model.
Real change to be driven by advising industry
Even so, real change will only occur when financial advisers drive the change rather than having the Government and regulator drag reluctant advisers kicking and screaming into a new professional business model. Initially, the leaders of the financial advising industry read the signs and were making the right noises (‘higher quality advice’ and ‘more professional industry’), although many backpedalled on significant reforms, in particular, the requirement to ensure a client periodically (every 2 years) agrees to remain a client (the opt-in rule) of the adviser. The original reform announcement referred to an opt-in after every 12 months, and then extended to every 2 years. Under the former ALP government, the final reform version for the opt-in requirement meant that some advisers won’t even have to participate in this compliance requirement, provided they are bound by a code of conduct approved by ASIC. And now we have a Liberal government that tried to remove the opt-in requirement completely, but was stymied by the Palmer United Party.
This irrational opposition from the broader financial services industry is disappointing for consumers and for younger people considering financial advising as a career. In my view, we need to reward the advisers who are operating in the best interests of clients right now – structurally, operationally and ethically.
The relatively new organisation – IFAAA – can differentiate the truly independent licensed advisers from the thousands of advisers who accept commissions and/or are employed or incentivised by the product distributors (typically the major financial organisations).
Note: Although financial reforms took effect from July 2013, existing commission arrangement and incentive schemes will continue to operate indefinitely, and independence, and conflicted advice, will be a constant struggle for the financial advising industry.
What does ‘independent adviser’ mean?
So, what do you need to possess in the way of skills and independence to make this exclusive list?
I interviewed Matthew Ross at the time we published the original list of 14 independent advisers (in February 2010), and his comments remain relevant. According to Matthew Ross, who is a member of the IFAAA, the list of independent advisers “satisfy the Corporation Act’s definition of independent (see s.923A) which is basically no commissions, no charging fees based on volume of product sold or advised on, and no affiliation with any product manufacturer.”
Ross explained that 80% of all authorised representatives are aligned with a product manufacturer, which precludes them from describing themselves as independent. He said: “Of the remaining 20%, a large slice of them pocket commissions (on insurance and/or investments) or charge their fees as a percentage of your assets, which is commissions by another name.”
Ross argued that the big push by planners to drop commissions but to charge fees as a percentage of assets under management is simply commissions by another name. Ross said that the asset fees are usually collected through a platform, which is not considered a ‘financial product’ under the legislation, and it means the financial adviser can then describe themselves as independent.
“The issue isn’t the word ‘commission’; it’s the concept of an incentive and no matter which way you look at it, when you are paid a % of anything, there is an incentive. Incentives result in zero independence,” said Ross.
Note: Effective since 1 July 2013, every financial adviser is subject to a statutory fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of a retail client. What this means is that a financial adviser is required to place the best interests of a client ahead of their own when providing personal advice to retail clients.
IFAAA – point of difference
The IFAAA promotes itself as the ‘gold standard’ of independence of financial advisers. Quoting directly from background IFAAA information:
Existing industry associations do not provide genuine independence. They represent the eighty-five per cent of financial planners associated with product manufacturers who receive commissions. According to the ASIC the typical financial planner acts as a “sales force for financial product manufacturers” and that advisers are “a product pipeline”. This is who the current industry associations are representing. Not one of the main four planner associations represents the interests of truly independent advisers whose interests are aligned with their clients.
According to the association’s background material, the IFAAA aims to solve the definition of independence and promote the value of independent advice to the consumers, to train and develop independent financial advisers, and to represent the interests of its members to government.
Membership of IFAAA
For a financial adviser to become a member of the IFAAA they must agree to the following:
I declare that I am genuinely independent and acknowledge the restrictions of the use of the term ‘independent’ under s 923A Corporations Act (2001).
I avoid all real and perceived conflicts between my interests and my client’s interests.
I do not receive commissions for my client purchasing a financial product.
I do not receive payment or inducements to recommend financial products to clients.
I do not have in place any fee structure that means I will not be paid unless my client purchases a financial product.
I declare that I have an interest in promoting and encouraging the professional development, independence and concerns of financial advisors.
I acknowledge that membership is contingent upon payment of an annual membership fee as determined by the Board from time to time.
Financial advisers are not the only experts who can provide independent advice. Accountants, lawyers and other independent professionals can become ‘associates’ of the IFAAA.
Group of 124 (53 + 49 + 22) – the list!
SuperGuide publishes, and intends to regularly update, a list of three categories of independent advisers:
those advisers (and AFSL holders) who are members of the IFAAA
those advisers (and AFSL holders) who satisfy the IFAAA independence requirements but are not members of the IFAAA
those advisers (and AFSL holders) who satisfy the independence requirements under the Corporations Act but may charge asset-based fees, which means they don’t satisfy the additional IFAAA requirement of only charging fees based on hourly rates or retainers.
IFAAA members – independent advisers
According to the IFAAA, as at October 2018, there are 53 independent financial advisers in Australia who are also members of the IFAAA (satisfy the independence requirements under section 923A of the Corporations Act 2001, plus only charge hourly rates or retainers for services). The names of these independent advisers are:
Daniel Brammall -Brocktons Independent Advisory
Naomi Horobin - Clover Financial
Susannah Kulincevic - Brocktons Independent Advisory
Phil Thompson - Rise Financial
Richard Barber - Liquidity Independent Advisers
Stuart Barber - Liquidity Independent Advisers
Phil Davies - Liquidity Independent Advisers
Alex Electra Frost - Electra Frost Accounting
Fergus Hardingham - FM Financial Solutions
David Harper - Naked Wealth
Philip Harvey - Construct Wealth
Vince Lam Plutus - Financial Guidance
Deborah Lin - Liquidity Independent Advisers
Daniel McGregor - Wealth Train
Michael Morrison - M Financial Planning
Jo Anne Nelson - Arc Financial Solutions
Stephanie O’Connor - Custom Accounting
Howard Pitts - Arc Financial Solutions
Michael Radalj - Your Private Advisers
Bill Raffle - Bennelong Private Wealth
Peter Surtenich - Suetonius Wealth Management
Katie Whiffen - The Retirement Blueprint
Justin Brand - Brand Financial
Aaron Crosthwaite - McMasters’ Financial QLD
Keith Henderson - Malibu Wealth Advisory
Philip Layton - Independent Wealth Management
Michael McNee - Darling Downs Independent
Todd Meynink - Asset Science
Guy Rasmussen - Whole Wealth
Neil Salkow - Roskow Independent Advisory
Cameron Foster - Horizon Advisory
Jacie Taylor - Periapt Advisory
Jane Clark - Jane Clark Financial Management
Anton Diedericks - Well Advanced Financial Advisers
Simon Duigan - Core Independent Financial Advice
Dominic Alafaci - Collins House Private Wealth
Trent Alexander - Financial Planning Expert
Ashley Arandez - Diverse Advisers
Adriano Donato - Roskow Independent Advisory
Sean Dwyer - McMasters’ Financial
Rick Horvat - Horvat Financial Advisors
Brook Logan - Logan Financial Advisers
Dennis Maddern - Maddern Financial Advisers
Matthew Ross - Roskow Independent Advisory
Amir Salehi - Planning Wealth Independent Advisory
Jason Smith - Think Independent
James Stephan - Stephan Independent Advisory
Joe Stephan - Stephan Independent Advisory
Chris Thoms - Super Focus
Berivan Yilmaz - McMasters’ Financial
James HarperOak Advisory
Peter HumbleRise Wealth Group
Christopher YoungCY Financial Advice
Independent advisers who satisfy IFAAA membership rules, but are not members of IFAAA
As at October 2018, we have 49 advisers who have requested to be on our list of independent advisers, and who satisfy IFAAA member rules, but who are not members of the IFAAA (second category of independent adviser).
The advisers listed below have declared that they satisfy the three limbs of independence required under the section 923A of the Corporations Act 2001, and only charge hourly rates or retainers of services:
Gavin Beecroft - Quantum Financial
Christopher Dorian Browne - F.D.Browne & Co
Harry Buckeridge - Providence Wealth Advisory
James Cruz - Evolution Financial Planning
Ben Liddicoat - BBK Financial Planning
Bill Mackay - Quantum Financial
Claire Mackay - Quantum Financial
Tim Mackay - Quantum Financial
Michael Ogg - Providence Wealth Advisory
Grant Patterson - Providence Wealth Advisory
Adrian Pinkewich - Now Accounting
William Porter - Providence Wealth Advisory
Carlo Queddeng - Providence Wealth Advisory
James Smith - Providence Wealth Advisory
Kevin Smith - The Professional Super Advisers
Crystal Bobir - Tupicoffs
Rocco Costa - Tupicoffs
Joanne Dale - Tupicoffs
Caleb Dozzi - dozzi Financial Advice
Ellie Fordham - dozzi Financial Advice
Jayne Graving - Arch Financial Planners
Simon Hepple - Tupicoffs
Glenn Hilber - Precision Wealth Management
Lachlan Kendall - Tupicoffs
Neil Kendall - Tupicoffs
Peter Lee - Roskow Independent Advisory
Ross McConachie - Tupicoffs
Mark Milner - Tupicoffs
Mark O’Flynn - Tupicoffs
Tony Sandercock - we talk money
Cynthia Sercombe - Tupicoffs
Samuel Turrisi- Roskow Independent Advisory
Scott Dawson - Wotherspoon Wealth
Samantha Harrison - Wotherspoon Wealth
Oliver Temme - Wotherspoon Wealth
John Wotherspoon - Wotherspoon Wealth
Simon Wotherspoon - Wotherspoon Wealth
Tom Barlow - Roskow Independent Advisory
Stephen Farrell - Guided Wealth
Melinda Hedges - Priority1 Wealth Management Group
Mathew Horvat - Horvat Financial Advisors
Rudolf Horvat - Horvat Financial Advisors
Corin Jacka - Priority1 Wealth Management Group
Peter Morrison-Dowd - Aspect FP
Stephen Murphy - Advice Services Australia
Matthew Perry - Lilliputian Financial Services
Graham Stewart - Roskow Independent Advisory
Kirsten Townsend - Roskow Independent Advisory
Dennis Barton - Andep Investment Consultancy
Independent advisers who are not members of IFAAA, and may charge asset-based fees
As at October 2018, we have 22 advisers who have requested to be on our list of independent advisers, and who are not members of the IFAAA, and who fall into the third category of independent adviser, that is, may charge asset-based fees, and other advisers operating under the same AFSL may charge asset-based fees.
We suggest you check with the adviser directly regarding asset-based fees.
The advisers listed below have declared that they satisfy the three limbs of independence required under the section 923A of the Corporations Act 2001 (refer earlier in the article):
Nigel BakerArch Capital
Ben SmytheMinchin Moore
Jack TidswellExceptional Financial Planning
David LanePitcher Partners Wealth Management
Jeff LeminAspire Financial Consulting
Alex LukashenokAspire Financial Consulting
Richard MeyersPitcher Partners Wealth Management
Ben TraversPitcher Partners Wealth Management
Sue DahnPitcher Partners Investment Services
Marcus DamenPitcher Partners Investment Services
Kellie DavidsonPitcher Partners Investment Services
Matthew DonatKoda Capital
David Gemmell50Plus Wealth
Andrew GillonPitcher Partners Investment Services
Michelle HeffernanPitcher Partners Investment Services
Victoria LindoresPitcher Partners Investment Services
Brendan PeacockPitcher Partners Investment Services
Chris ReadPitcher Partners Investment Services
Adam StanleyPitcher Partners Investment Services
George van DeventerPitcher Partners Investment Services
Farren WilliamsKoda Capital
Scott StanleyRichmond Private Wealth
To speak with an independent financial planner in Brisbane, please contact Whole Wealth on 07 3535 0694 or firstname.lastname@example.org.