Financial advisers feel squeeze

By Susan Edmunds

James McGhie says advisers can't keep up with paperwork. Photo / Frances Oliver
James McGhie says advisers can't keep up with paperwork. Photo / Frances Oliver

If you have life insurance or investments arranged by a self-employed financial adviser or insurance broker, it may not be long before you're dealing with a new face.

Experts say new regulations are pushing "one-man band" advisers out of business.

Since the introduction of the Financial Markets Authority (FMA), advisers have had more paperwork in the form of increased compliance and reporting requirements, and new standards for ongoing training.

Apex managing director James McGhie said the increased workload was too much, particularly for sole traders. In the past three months his insurance brokerage had bought the client lists of three advisers. They expect to acquire more this year.

"With the additional compliance requirements ... [advisers] were doing a day job anyway, so they have to look at other options," he said.

Many sole traders were choosing to join forces in adviser networks, or sell their client bases to larger firms.

Nigel Tate, president of the Institute of Financial Advisers, said advisers had started working in groups which enabled them to hire a compliance manager to work between them. "This is probably ideal," he said.

Others were joining support structures run by insurance companies or fund managers.

Glenn Wheeler, previously operating as Wheeler Financial Services in Auckland, sold his practice to Apex. Administration requirements had crept up to the point where he was spending 60 per cent of his day on paperwork: "I wasn't selling, so I wasn't generating revenue."

The 50-year-old was not ready to retire and the Apex deal meant he could focus on selling, which was what he enjoyed.

Tate and Wheeler both knew of older advisers who had opted for early retirement because of the changes.

McGhie said big American brokerage firms were also eyeing New Zealand brokers.

"We have seen the two largest insurance brokers [Aon and Crombie Lockiewood] recently consolidate their position with significant purchases putting them into a different league than the rest of the industry."

Tate said the requirements on registered financial advisers could become more stringent.

An agreement between the FMA and its Australian counterpart came into effect last Friday.

Australian standards were tougher, he said, and it was likely New Zealand's would have to match them.

But McGhie said the changes were not a bad thing for consumers. Customers who stayed with small operations could find their choices restricted.

"Insurers' compliance costs are increasing and they can no longer deal with everyone as they used to," he said.

- Herald on Sunday

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