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Research commissioned by Industry Super Network (ISN) suggests that the Government’s Future of Financial Advice reforms will substantially increase opportunities to provide financial advice.

Late last year, ISN commissioned two important studies that examined the demand for and supply of financial advice.

The first study was an online survey by Forethought Research of 804 adult Australians with superannuation, regarding their use of financial advice in the two years to November 2009. The second study consisted of modelling by Rice Warner Actuaries of the impact of a commissions ban on the financial advice industry. The two key messages that arose from both studies were:

– Currently, the major consumers of full financial advice are high-networth individuals and those close to retirement.

– A ban on commissions on financial advice (including for risk insurance) will stimulate a rapid increase in the supply of non-complex advice. (“Non-complex advice” refers to single-issue and intra-fund advice, as opposed to “complex” or holistic financial advice. Advice is said to be “ongoing” if it is provided
at least once a year.)

The survey conducted by Forethought Research found that one third of all respondents sought some form of financial advice in the two years to November 2009.

The survey results confirm that younger people and low-to-middle income earners are untapped markets for financial advice. Only 23 per cent of respondents earning a gross personal income less than $100,000 sought complex advice (ongoing or one-off) between November 2007 and November 2009, compared to 51 per cent for respondents earning more than $100,000.

Analysing the demand for ongoing complex advice by both age and income, it is evident that only 12 per cent of respondents who were (a) aged 18-54 and (b) earning less than $100,000 per annum, sought ongoing complex financial advice. The corresponding number for respondents aged 55 and over was 31 per cent.

The influence of income was much less pronounced for single-issue and intra-fund advice. Eighteen per cent of respondents earning $100,000 or less sought single-issue or intra-fund advice in the two years to November 2009, compared to 24 per cent of respondents earning $100,000 or more. While Forethought Research’s data confirm the relatively low consumption of advice by younger and less wealthy people, Rice Warner’s modelling suggests that these groups will be the chief beneficiaries of the Government’s financial advice reforms.

Rice Warner estimate that by 2024, consumers will receive more than 900,000 additional pieces of advice than would have been the case with no regulatory change. This increase will largely be driven by a rapid expansion in the supply of single-issue and intra-fund advice (137 per cent), with the growth in the supply of complex advice remaining stable (5 per cent).

In addition, Rice Warner project that greater price transparency and competition will induce a 48 per cent decrease in the weighted average cost of complex and non-complex advice by 2023-24 ($3400 to $1800). Rice Warner do not expect financial advice reform to affect total adviser employment or revenue significantly, although they do anticipate that more labour hours will be devoted to the delivery of non-complex advice and less to complex advice.

All these findings should inspire confidence that the Government’s reforms will make financial advice more accessible and affordable, and therefore open up new markets for financial advisers. Further, the removal of commissions and introduction of a fiduciary duty will build consumer confidence in the professionalism and integrity of financial advisers. It is therefore essential that the Future of Financial Advice reforms are legislated intact and receive the full support of the industry.

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