Financial advice: Only 74 independent financial advisers in Australia

Note: This article is updated regularly when new financial advisers join the independence club (latest update November 2015). 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 74 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 74 independent advisers?

Before you ask the obvious question, let me say, we have asked the same question: How do we know that the 74 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 23.5 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 74’ 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 from SuperGuide 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 November 2015, we now have 74 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 [17 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:

  1. You can’t be affiliated with a bank, insurance or investment company (that is, a product manufacturer).
  2. You can’t receive commissions of any sort – including insurance commissions – unless you refund them in full to the client.
  3. 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 74 (23 + 37 + 14) – 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 November 2015, there are 23 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:

Trent AlexanderFinancial Planning ExpertVIC
Jason AtkinsRoskow Independent AdvisoryQLD
Tom BarlowRoskow Independent AdvisoryVIC
Daniel BrammallBrocktons Independent AdvisoryACT
Justin BrandBrand FinancialQLD
Adriano DonatoRoskow Independent AdvisoryVIC
Fergus HardinghamFM Financial SolutionsNSW
Rick HorvatHorvat Financial AdvisorsVIC
Susannah KulincevicBrocktons Independent AdvisoryACT
Garry LongaMacroe PartnersWA
Jason McGregorRoskow Independent AdvisoryVIC
Howard PittsArc Financial SolutionsNSW
Michael RadaljYour Private AdvisersNSW
Bill RaffleBennelong Private WealthNSW
Michael Rees-EvansLibertas Wealth ConsultingNSW
Matthew RossRoskow Independent AdvisoryVIC
Neil SalkowRoskow Independent AdvisoryQLD 
Ben SmytheSmythe Financial ManagementNSW
James StephanStephan StrategicVIC
Joe StephanStephan StrategicVIC
Graham StewartRoskow Independent AdvisoryVIC
Phil ThompsonRise FinancialACT
Chris ThomsSuper FocusVIC

Independent advisers who satisfy IFAAA membership rules, but are not members of IFAAA

As at November 2015, we have 37 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:

Dennis BartonAndep Investment ConsultancyWA
Gavin BeecroftQuantum FinancialNSW
Stephen BlakeBlake & CoQLD
Patrick BonifacioMy Independent Financial AdviserNSW
Christopher Dorian BrowneF.D.Browne & CoNSW
Dijana CaneMy Independent Financial AdviserWA
Jenny FarrellPriority1 Wealth Management GroupVIC
Daryl ForgeJDFA Wealth AdvisersVIC
Jennifer ForgeJDFA Wealth AdvisersVIC
Stephen GodfreyTupicoffsQLD
Thomas HaMy Independent Financial AdviserVIC
Melinda HedgesPriority1 Wealth Management GroupVIC
Glenn HilberPrecision Wealth ManagementQLD
Mathew HorvatHorvat Financial AdvisorsVIC
Rudolf HorvatHorvat Financial AdvisorsVIC
Corin JackaPriority1 Wealth Management GroupVIC
Kearsten JamesTupicoffsQLD
Neil KendallTupicoffsQLD
Ma. Nympha LaoaganMy Independent Financial AdviserQLD
Ben LiddicoatBBK Financial PlanningNSW
Bill MackayQuantum FinancialNSW
Claire MackayQuantum FinancialNSW
Tim MackayQuantum FinancialNSW
Tarragon MannMy Independent Financial AdviserNSW
Ross McConachieTupicoffsQLD
Jaikrishna MenonMy Independent Financial AdviserNSW
Mark MilnerTupicoffsQLD
Peter Morrison-DowdAspect FPNSW
Stephen MurphyAdvice Services AustraliaVIC
Mark O’FlynnTupicoffsQLD
Matthew PerryLilliputian Financial ServicesVIC
Tony SandercockwetalkmoneyQLD
John ScottMy Independent Financial AdviserNSW
Kevin SmithThe Professional Super AdvisersNSW
Mark TimsMy Independent Financial AdviserVIC
John WotherspoonAstute InvestingSA
Simon WotherspoonAstute InvestingSA

Independent advisers who are not members of IFAAA, and may charge asset-based fees

As at November 2015, we have 14 advisers (9 from the one firm) 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, they charge 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 CapitalNSW
Christopher BatesCanopy PrivateNSW
Simon BriggsPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Sue DahnPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Marcus DamenPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Kellie DavidsonPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Brendan FahyPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
David Gemmell50Plus WealthVIC
David LanePitcher Partners Wealth ManagementQLD
Jeff LeminAspire Financial ConsultingQLD
Victoria LindoresPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Richard MeyersPitcher Partners Wealth ManagementQLD
Adam StanleyPitcher Partners Investment ServicesVIC
Jack TidswellExceptional Financial PlanningNSW

If you believe that your name should be on one of the lists above, then why not contact SuperGuide? A starting point is to check out our open invitation, Still wanted: all independent advisers in Australia.


  1. Jordon Kwit says:

    Asset fees are incentives that prevent an adviser from being impartial and, therefore, create a conflict of interest between adviser and client. Only 64 independent financial advisers in Australia?

  2. Peter Barber says:

    I was wondering if there was a list of truly independent flat fee advisers out there and now I’ve found it.
    Excellent work Trish Power, hopefully the list of 65 keeps growing.

  3. Kathy helli says:

    I don’t see any

    advisors listed from Tasmania

  4. Dear Trish,

    There are a bunch of good reasons here and above. The main reason of the difficulty to find a consistent independent advice is because normally costumers prefer to pay revenue-based retribution to the advisory than a lump sum amount, whatever it happens to their investment.

    For this reason, it is important that the market become aware of the importance of internationalisation and specially in the labour market.

    According to Colin, who has previously commented in this article, the smoke and the mirrors have to stop. As a oligopoly used market, Australia has to become familiar with competitivity and accepting new agents into the market. Those agents will not only reduce prices within the market but also increase the quality of the services delivered.

    I would say that indeed independent advisors are needed but the real necessity is a customer based and focused advisory which helps the industry move onwards improving the customer service.

    Thanks for you article, best regards.


  5. Trish, one of the problems I see is that Financial Planners are afraid of disclosing their hourly rate based on the assumption that it will scare the punters. Most accountants, lawyers, architects and other qualified professionals are OK with disclosing their rate, along with an estimate of the final cost.

    Most of these professional have not only a higher education degree, but most have several years of study and experience to obtain professional qualifications.

    If I can have a first rate accountant for $300 an hour, with an annual cost for company and personal tax returns, and advice along the way for less than $2,000 per year why would a financial planner expect remuneration of 4 or 5 times that?

    There is sophisticated software that will, using the data from the punter, turn out a standard plan in a few minutes. Add in, say, 2 hours fact finding, another 2 hours for internal review of the plan, and another 2 hours for presentation. So lets say 6 hours at $300 = less than $2k.

    I’d happily pay $10k if there was real additional value, but not for a standard advice type of plan.

    The smoke and mirrors has to stop. If $300 an hour is not a reasonable rate then the industry really does have to reflect on how they think they are worth any more.

    The industry should move to a cost based fee structure and educate the punters that good advice is worth paying for.

    I would love to be able to bill at $200 an hour :-)


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