Choosing a financial adviser
Finding an adviser that suits you
Before you choose an adviser, you should check ASIC's financial advisers register to make sure they have the right experience and qualifications to give you the level of service you need.
You can also check the register to make sure that the adviser is licensed and hasn't been banned or disqualified from giving advice.
1. Finding a financial adviser
2. Check the financial advisers register
3. Get a financial services guide
4. Financial adviser's qualifications and experience
5. Financial adviser's fees
6. Financial services from a lawyer
Finding a financial adviser
Industry associations usually have 'find an adviser' services that will help you find an adviser in your area. Most associations require their members to participate in ongoing training, have a code of conduct for members to follow and a mechanism for handling complaints.
Here are some links to a few professional associations to get you started:
1. The Financial Planning Association - They provide a Find a planner service.
2. The Association of Financial Advisers - They have a Find an adviser service.
Check the financial advisers register
Once you have a short list of advisers, it's important to check their history, qualifications and current employment status before you approach them about getting advice.
You can check an adviser on ASIC's financial advisers register.
The register tells you:
the adviser's qualifications, experience and employment history
what product areas the adviser can provide advice about (check that these are the areas you're looking for)
whether the adviser is a member of any professional bodies or industry associations that are relevant to providing financial services
whether the adviser has been the subject of disciplinary action by ASIC
the name and number of the Australian Financial Services (AFS) licence holder who employs or authorises the financial adviser to provide advice
details about who owns or controls the licence holder.
If the adviser is not operating under a licence, do not deal with them. They are breaking the law and you will have little protection if things go wrong.
Most industry associations also have information on their website about their members.
You can also search the internet to find out more about the adviser or the business they work for.
Get a financial services guide
Once you have a list of a few possible advisers, get a copy of their financial services guide (FSG) by visiting their website or by phoning and asking them to send it to you.
The guide will tell you:
what services they offer
how they charge and whether they receive any additional payments or benefits
who owns the company the adviser works for
if they have links to product providers (many advisers are linked to banks, fund managers and life insurance companies and this can affect the services and products offered)
their licence number.
Financial adviser's qualifications and experience
You should also check if the adviser has the right qualifications and experience to help you achieve your financial goals.
A financial adviser can be qualified to give advice after meeting only minimum training requirements. To increase your chances of getting advice that is right for you, you should look for an adviser who also has a diploma, an advanced diploma or degree qualification in a relevant discipline such as finance, economics, accounting or financial planning. A degree is a higher level qualification than a diploma or an advanced diploma.
Ask the adviser about their typical clients. This will help you judge whether they have the experience to deal with people with similar issues and goals to you. For example, are the adviser's other clients planning for retirement or are they young families wanting to save for their children's education?
The amount of experience an adviser has is also relevant. For example, an adviser that has recently graduated may be highly qualified; however, they may not be as experienced as an older adviser with fewer qualifications.
Ongoing professional development
Like other professionals, it's important for an adviser to keep up with industry or regulatory changes that might affect their clients. An adviser should participate in regular training activites such as courses or seminars run by universities, industry associations, professional bodies or registered training organisation.
Industry association membership
Also check to see if the adviser is a member of an industry association and/or a professional body. Most associations require members to participate in ongoing training, have a code of conduct for members to follow and a mechanism for handling complaints.
Financial adviser's fees
Ask the adviser for an estimate of the cost of the advice. Even a rough estimate will give you an idea of what you'll be paying.
Financial services from a lawyer
Some lawyers, in addition to professional legal services, may offer financial or investment services.
If a lawyer is giving you personal financial advice they must have an AFSL or work for someone that holds an AFSL. Always check ASIC's financial advisers register before you choose an adviser.
If you are concerned that a lawyer or law firm might be providing financial advice without a licence, you can report it to ASIC.