This startling figure comes from a recent review of the financial advice offered by the big four banks by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
Even more startling: 10% of advice was found to leave investors in an even worse financial position.
Through a “vertically integrated business model”, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac, ANZ and AMP offer ‘in house’ financial advice, and collectively, control more than half of Australia’s financial planners.
It’s no surprise ASIC’s review found advisers at these banks favored financial products that connected to their parent company, with 68% of client’s funds invested in ‘in house’ products as opposed to external products that may have been on the firms list.
Why the banks’ integrated financial advice model is flawed
It’s hard to believe the banks can keep a straight face and say they can abide by the duty for advisers to act absolutely in the best interests of a client.
Under the integrated financial advice model, there are layers of different fees including adviser fees, platform fees and investment management fees adding up to 2.5-3.5%
The typical breakdown of fees is usually as follows: an adviser charge of 0.8% to 1.1%, a platform fee of between 0.4% and 0.8%, and a managed fund fee of between 0.7% and 2.1%. These fees are not only opaque, but are sufficiently high to limit the ability of the client to quickly earn real rates of return.
Layers of fees placed into the business model used by the banks means there is not necessarily an incentive for the financial advice arm to make a profit, because the profits can be made in the upstream parts of the supply chain through the banks promoting their own products .
This business model, however, is flawed, and cannot survive in a world where people are demanding greater accountability for their investments, increased transparency in relation to fees and increased control over their investments.
It is noteworthy that the truly independent financial advisory firms in Australia that offer separately managed accounts have done everything in their power to avoid using managed funds and keep their fees competitive.
The banks have refused to admit that their integrated approach to advice is fatally flawed. When the Australian Financial Review approached the Financial Services Council (FSC), a peak body that represents the ‘for-profit’ wealth managers, for a defense if the layered fee arrangements, a spokesperson said no generalizations could be made.
There are fundamental flaws in the advice model, and it will be interesting to see what the upcoming royal commission into banking will do to change some of the contentious issues surrounding integrated financial advice.
Many financial commentators are calling for a separation of financial advice attached to banks, with obvious bias and failure to meet the best interests of clients becoming more apparent.
Chris Brycki, CEO of Stockspot, says “investors should receive fair and unbiased financial advice from experts who will act in the best interests of their clients. What Australians currently get is product pushing from salespeople who are paid by the banks.”
Brycki is calling for structural reform to fix the problems caused by the dominant market power of the banks to ensure that consumers are protected, advisers are better educated and incentives are aligned.
Stockspot’s annual research into high-fee-charging funds shows that thousands of customers of banks are being recommended bank aligned investment products despite the potential of more appropriate alternatives being available.