Clockwise from top left: Karen Eleyu, Steven Fine, Simon Burke and Peter Horsfield

While researchers and Professional Planner poll respondents predict adviser numbers will soon drop to 13,000 and below, many industry observers quietly predict the number will settle at a far more conservative 15,000 to 17,000.

A recent Professional Planner poll asking advisers “How low will registered adviser numbers go before they stabilise and start to grow again?” received a grim response; 17 per cent believe the number will reach 13,000 and a further 52 per cent said the number would fall below 13,000, giving a total of 69 per cent that see adviser numbers falling to at least 13,000.

A further 26 per cent said adviser numbers would bottom out at 15,000 and only four per cent – out of 322 votes – said 18,000 would be the low point.

The numbers match predictions made by Adviser Ratings, which said in its latest Advice Landscape report that adviser numbers would fall from 20,764 at the beginning of 2021 to 13,154 by 2023 due to a confluence of pressures including the education mandate and a threats to insurance advice revenue.

The fall will be exacerbated by a slim funnel of new entrants; only 900 are currently studying FASEA-approved degrees, a fraction of which will complete the professional year and become authorised representatives.

Not everyone agrees on the nadir of the adviser exodus, however.

Despite the research and the poll results, many in the industry believe adviser numbers will bottom out between 15,000 and 17,000 before gradually rebounding.

“The most likely number at January 2022 is about 17,000,” says Tom Reddacliff, chief executive at Encore Advisory Group. “After that you would think the vast majority will go through to 2026.”

“My response would be somewhere around the 16,000 number,” says ex-adviser Karen Eley, who now operates as a money coach under the Synchron banner.

“I think about 17,000 will pass the FASEA exam,” says Perth advice recruiter Simon Burke.

“Think of it from the demand perspective,” says Steven Fine, founder at advice brokerage firm Growth Focus. “Most practices we work with have grown over the course of the pandemic. If there’s growth then there is demand… and as long as there is demand for services there will be a planner to fill that demand. I think the number at the end of the year will be around 16,000.”

Exam numbers at a glance

While the spectre of 13,000 or less as a low point for adviser numbers remains a distinct possibility, the numbers coming out of FASEA tell a different story.

After January’s exam the education authority reported 12,000 advisers had already passed, with five sittings left on its schedule.