Financial advice costs

Paying for financial advice

ASIC receives complaints about the fees charged by financial advisers. It's important to understand exactly how your adviser will be paid before you engage them, and again before you agree to any of their recommendations.

Here we outline some of the fees you may be charged when getting financial advice, your payment options and what to do if you are not happy with the fees you've been charged.

The first meeting with a financial adviser

The first meeting with an adviser is often free. During this meeting, you and the adviser will discuss your advice needs and the adviser can give you an idea of what they can do to help you.

The adviser will tell you how much the advice will cost so you can decide whether you want to proceed. Costs should be outlined in dollars, not just as a percentage of the amount you have to invest.

Advisers charge fees based on the type of advice being provided, for example advice around a single issue, such as choosing an investment or consolidating your super, will cost less than comprehensive advice that takes into account all of your personal circumstances. See types of financial advice for more information.

Statement of Advice (SOA) fee

If you decide to continue with the adviser, they will prepare a Statement of Advice (SOA) that will formally document the advice. This will include their understanding of your current personal circumstances, your financial goals, strategies to achieve your goals, and the details of any financial products they recommend.

The cost for preparing the SOA will be billed to you or may be deducted, with your permission, from the balance of your investment.

Smart tip

Did you know you can negotiate the fees you'll pay with your adviser?

The cost of the advice can vary significantly from one adviser to the next and will depend on the scope of the advice and how the adviser charges fees.  Some advisers charge flat dollar fees (also known as 'fee for service'), while others will charge fees based on a percentage of your investments. You may be charged a combination of these fees, for example your adviser may charge a flat dollar fee for preparing an SOA but charge ongoing advice fees based on a percentage of your investments.

If you receive advice about insurance, you may not have to pay for the SOA if the adviser is paid commissions from the insurance company.

Even if you decide not to proceed with the adviser's recommendations, you will generally be expected to pay for the preparation of the SOA.

Fee for implementing financial advice

If you decide to accept the adviser's recommendations, there may be a fee for implementing the advice. This covers the administration work. The amount charged should reflect the complexity of the recommendations and the amount of work required to implement the advice. You may be able to negotiate this fee with your adviser.

You will usually be offered a choice of payment options, which may include paying upfront or having the cost deducted from your investment.

Important:

Never write cheques payable to your adviser if the money will be used for investments. Make the cheque payable to the product provider instead.

Ongoing financial advice fees

If you've agreed to receive ongoing advice, it's important to understand what your ongoing advice fee will cover. Services may include:

  • Smart tip

    It's important to understand the total amount of fees you will pay - both up-front and on an ongoing basis, and who receives the fees.

    Regular reviews with your financial adviser
  • Regular reports on your investment portfolio
  • Phone or email access to your adviser or an associate
  • Newsletters
  • Seminar invitations.

You may be offered different levels of ongoing service which will determine the ongoing fees you'll pay and the amount of contact you can have with your adviser.

Some advisers charge flat dollar fees while others will charge a percentage of your investments. If your adviser charges a percentage-based fee, make sure you know what this will be in dollar terms, as a percentage fee may look much smaller than the actual dollar amount.

If you are paying ongoing advice fees for services you don't want, you can negotiate the ongoing fee or ask for the fees to be switched off.

Check you are getting what you pay for

ASIC has found some advisers charging for ongoing advice they have not provided. If you have agreed to an ongoing service, make sure you are getting the advice you paid for. If you have paid fees for services you haven't received, lodge a complaint through the adviser or licensee's internal dispute resolution system as you may be entitled to a refund and compensation. See ASIC's media release for more information.

Podcast on financial advice fees

Listen to Senior Executive Leader, Joanna Bird, talk about how ASIC is addressing advisers' systemic failures to provide ongoing advice services to customers who paid fees for those services. 

podcast

Interviewer: Hello and welcome to ASIC View, the official podcast of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. On today's episode we'll be discussing ASIC's report into the extent of failure to deliver ongoing advice services to financial advice customers who are paying fees to receive those services. My name is Andrew Williams and with me this time around is Jo Bird, Senior Executive Leader, Financial Advisers at ASIC. Jo, thank you very much for your time.

Jo: Thanks Andrew, good to be with you.

Interviewer: Can you tell us more about the kind of fees we're talking about here? Why are customers paying these fees in the first place?

Jo: Basically the customers are paying fees to receive an ongoing advice service such as an annual financial advice review. However, they're not receiving the service. There are basically two reasons why they don't receive the service.

The first is they don't actually have a financial adviser allocated to them, because for example, their financial adviser has left the licensee or has retired. But they're still being charged the fee for the ongoing advice, which they're not receiving.

The second situation is where the customer does have a financial adviser allocated to them, but that adviser doesn't provide the advice they've agreed to provide, even though the fees are being taken out of, for example, the customers investment accounts.

Interviewer: Are there particular organisations that the advisers covered in this report are associated with?

Jo: This report is part of our Wealth Management Operations project, so we're focusing on the conduct of six of Australia's largest banking and financial services institutions. So we're looking at AMP, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Macquarie Group, National Australia Bank and Westpac.

Interviewer: And it's my understanding that's nearly half of the overall market? It's about 40% of the overall market.

Jo: Those institutions account for about 40% of the advice market.

Interviewer: So what led to ASIC looking into this issue in the first place and producing this report? And what did you find?  

Jo: Okay. We started this project as a result of information we obtained including through breach notification from some of the licensees. That information suggested to us that this conduct of charging fees and not providing any services was occurring. AMP, ANZ, CBA and NAB have all identified systemic issues in relation to the charging of ongoing advice fees and failure to provide those services for the fees.

Westpac has also identified a systemic issue, but in relation to one adviser only. Macquarie hasn't actually identified any systemic failures of the fee for no service variety. That isn't really surprising to us actually because Macquarie has quite a different business model to the other institutions.

So in the course of the project, well we've discovered that the problem exists and we've successfully negotiated a range of positive and improved compensation outcomes for the affected customers. We've said to the institutions, you have to make sure you fully compensate all these customers for these breaches.

And, we've made sure that the institutions have correctly identified the customers who have been affected by the breaches. We're making sure that the way they're calculating their compensation is fair. We're also insisting that they go in there and do some further reviews to make sure that they don't have these problems elsewhere, that they haven't identified.

Furthermore, we're actually asking them to make changes to their businesses to make sure that these failures don't occur in the future.

Interviewer: Is ASIC going to take any enforcement action in relation to the conduct outlined in this report?

Jo: ASIC has commenced several enforcement investigations in relation to this conduct. But regardless of those investigations, we think it's really important that the licensees compensate affected customers and make changes to their businesses to make sure that these problems don't occur again in the future and the report we've just published is about that part of our work.

Interviewer: Now you mentioned the importance of compensation here, can you talk a little bit about what the compensation process so far has entailed and what we can expect to happen in the future?

Jo: Certainly. So, as of 31 August 2016, the compensation arising from the failures outlined in our report was approximately $23.6 million. And that's been paid, or agreed to be paid, to 27,000 customers also. We expect the amount of compensation to substantially increase in the coming months. We have asked all of the institutions to give us the estimates of how much compensation they expect to pay for those breaches that they have already identified. And they have estimated that they will be paying $154 million plus interest extra to over 175,000 further clients.

So that will take the total compensation to more than $176 million.

Interviewer: Yes. And that's the estimate at this point?

Jo: Yes. I should add, obviously the earlier figure I gave you, the $23.6 million, is money that's clear and that money's been paid or about to be paid. The future figures of $154 million plus interest is an estimate.

Interviewer: And the amount of compensation that each individual customer gets will differ depending on the kind of fees that they've been paying in the first place? So it's not a uniform average?

Jo: That's right. It differs for each customer depending on how much they've paid and how long they were in an ongoing fee arrangement for.

Interviewer: Speaking of those customers, if anyone is currently paying for financial advice, or maybe they're thinking about paying for financial advice in the future, what advice do you have for people that are going into this industry and maybe looked at this report and had concerns?

Jo: Okay. My first tip would be to go to ASIC's MoneySmart website. That's a really useful resource for people who want to get financial advice. It gives them some guidance about how much financial advice might cost, and it really explains the advice process. My second piece of advice would be that customers should always check that they're receiving the services that they're paying for.

Fortunately, in the advice space, the Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms have made it much easier for customers to check that they are getting the advice they're paying for. Every year a customer who is in an ongoing advice relationship should receive a fee disclosure statement that will set out exactly what they're paying and what service they're getting for what they're paying. And then every 2 years they will have to actively opt-in to the continuation of that ongoing fee arrangement.

The last point I'll make was that actually if you feel like you might have paid fees for services in the past that you didn't receive, you might be entitled to refunds and compensation. And you should, in the first point, lodge a complaint through the bank or the licensees internal dispute resolution system. And if you don't get satisfaction there, you should go to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Interviewer: That's good advice Jo. Thank you very much for your time.

Jo: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

Interviewer: The report and the media release relating to the report can both be found on ASIC's website. Just go to asic.gov.au. There's also a link to the relevant MoneySmart page there in the media release. So check that out.

We'll be back with another episode very shortly. Thank you very much for listening. 

Advice review implementation fees 

If, after a review of your financial plan, you and your adviser agree to make changes to your investments, you may be charged additional implementation fees.

Annual fee disclosure statements

If you've agreed to ongoing advice, you will receive an annual fee disclosure statement that will outline the fees you paid, the services you received, and the services you were entitled to receive for the previous 12 months.

Consider whether you have benefitted from the ongoing service and are happy to continue for the next 12 months.

You can end your ongoing relationship with your adviser at any time. See working with a financial adviser  for more information.

See questions to ask a financial adviser for talking points you can use to check the cost of ongoing advice.

Financial product commissions

Commissions and volume-based payments for recommending financial products can influence the advice given by financial advisers.

Commissions were banned on new investments and super products from 1 July 2013. However, financial products bought before 1 July 2013 can still pay ongoing commissions to the adviser. The commissions will continue to be deducted from your investment until you leave that product or end your relationship with that adviser. 

Your adviser can also still receive commissions on some new products, for example, life insurance.

Information about commissions does not have to be included in your fee disclosure statement.

How to find out if you're paying commissions 

If you're unsure how much you're paying, ask your adviser to explain the products you have bought and whether they are receiving commissions.

If commissions are being deducted from your investments and you're not happy with this arrangement, speak to your adviser about your options. You may be able to switch to a product that doesn't pay commissions, or arrange for the commissions to be rebated to you.

Remember, any fee you pay reduces the money you have to invest.

Case study: Edward asks to see all the fees

Older Guy With PapersEdward goes to see a financial adviser. His investments, including super, total around $400,000. After taking the time to understand what Edward wants to acheive, the adviser offers to put together a financial plan for $3,500 with a further implementation fee of $1,500. The adviser explains that there will also be investment fees for the products that have been recommended. Edward agrees to pay for the financial plan.

At the next meeting, Edward receives the plan which, along with the strategic advice recommendation, outlines all the fees payable if he implements the advice. The fees table in the SOA summarises the fees for the first year, and who receives each fee:

Fees payable by Edward Fee charged ($) Fee as a percentage of investments Fees received by
Financial planner Investment platform Product issuers
Upfront fees
Financial plan fee $3,500 - $3,500 - -
Implementation fee $1,500 - $1,500  - -
Ongoing fees based on $400,000 in investments
Ongoing advice fees $2,000 0.50% $2,000 - -
Platform administration fees $3,000 0.75%   $3,000  
Investment management fees(1) $3,000 0.75% - - $3,000
Insurance premiums
Insurance premiums year 1 (100% commission to adviser) $1,000 - $1,000 - -
Total fees in Year 1 $14,000 - $8,000 $3,000 $3,000
Estimated ongoing investment fees and insurance premiums $9.000 2% $2,000 $3,000 $4,000

(1)  Investment management fees are usually deducted from investment returns before they are credited to your account which means investment returns quoted are usually net of investment management fees.

Edward now understands that the total fees for the first year are $14,000.

Complaining about financial advice fees

If you're not happy with the fees you are paying your adviser, talk it over with them and see if they are willing to renegotiate their fees. If you're not happy with the adviser's response (or they refuse to speak to you about your advice fees) you can make a complaint through the adviser's complaints process.

See problems with a financial adviser for more information about what to do if you're unhappy with the service you've received from an adviser.

An adviser must be remunerated for their services; however, it's in your best interest to know how much and how often you will pay for the advice you receive.


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Last updated: 14 May 2018