When it comes to your finances, we often talk about the importance of asking an expert – a financial adviser. But how do you find one? And how do you measure their expertise?
By far the best place to start looking for a financial adviser is by asking your friends and family. If someone has a great experience with a product, shop or service, they’ll be only too happy to refer you to it. The same definitely goes for financial advice.
You might think that finance is usually a topic that is kept private, but when you ask the question, you’ll probably be surprised to learn how readily those closest to you are willing to share their experiences. You might even know someone who works in the finance industry who can point you in the direction of a professional they know or who they’ve worked with.
Choice is important, so ask around and get a list of two or three names. Then, check out those people on social media. LinkedIn is a great place to see what other people have said about an adviser. You can also see if that adviser has posted on any topics that resonate with you, and what their resume tells you about their experience in the industry.
The next step in your search should definitely be the ASIC Financial Adviser Register. ASIC is the regulator that governs financial services and punishes anybody who does the wrong thing by clients. In order to call yourself a financial adviser in Australia, you need to be listed on the ASIC register.
The register is also a great tool for measuring an adviser’s expertise. It shows you all the types of advice a person is legally allowed to provide to clients, how long they’ve been advising, as well as their education history, whether they’re members of any professional associations and if they have previously been the subject of any disciplinary action.
On the subject of professional associations, this is definitely something you should look for with your financial adviser. Professional associations are organisations that represent the interests of their relative profession, help educate their members and maintain high standards and ethical behaviour.
Professional associations have codes of conduct that their members have to adhere to, which gives you an idea of the level of service you can expect from an adviser, and the signs of risky or unethical behaviour that you should be on the lookout for.
When an adviser is a member of a professional association, they’re also required to continually update their skills and knowledge. This is an important part of being a professional, because products, and the rules about providing financial advice, are constantly changing.
Trust Your Gut
The final step in choosing an adviser is to trust your gut. Everyone is different, with their own unique personality and wants/needs. While we like to think that we get along with everyone, we all know that there are some people that we just don’t ‘mesh’ with. When it comes to financial advice, it is so important that you have a positive relationship with your adviser, because you’re dealing with some really personal topics.
So, even though an adviser might tick all the boxes in terms of recommendations, expertise and professionalism, that doesn’t mean they’re the right adviser for you. You need to meet with your prospective adviser face to face and have an honest conversation about the kind of help you’re looking for and what the adviser believes they can do for you. If you don’t feel like they understand where you’re coming from, it could be because they are not the adviser you need.
We won’t be offended if you say we’re not the one for you – instead, we’ll recommend one of our colleagues or peers that we think will be a better match. What’s important to us is that you keep moving forward on your advice journey, because we believe everyone should have a plan for their finances.
For the record, Brett and I have 38 years’ experience in the financial services industry between us, 24 of those spent directly advising clients. We are also both members of the Financial Planning Association, and we both have numerous high-level, industry-specific qualifications, because we have always aimed to be ahead of the curve with education requirements, well before legislation told us to.