Questions have been raised about how easy it is to gain access to independent financial advice after research revealed just 325 investment advisers were not linked to a bank, stockbroker or financial institution.

In a breakdown of the industry, financial commentator David Chaplin found the number of authorised financial advisers had shrunk by around 100 people in the last year to 1895 and of those operating only 1264 offered personalised investment advise.

Further analysing the 1264, Chaplin found just 520 did not work for a bank or broker and only 325 were not owned or affiliated with a financial institution.

Chaplin said it appeared that "independent financial advice" was a rare commodity.


But both the financial adviser regulator and the Retirement Commissioner have played down the importance of using a non-aligned adviser.

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said there were advantages to using both an independent and an aligned adviser.

"Alignment can provide an infrastructure and support services but it does narrow the product suite."

Maxwell said the key was ensuring the customer knew from the start whether an adviser was aligned or independent and what that meant.

"They can then make their decision accordingly."

Simone Robbers, acting head of primary regulatory operations at the Financial Markets Authority, said not all aligned advisers limited their advice to products issued by their employer.

"They may also recommend other financial products that are not issued by their employer and the range of those products can be more extensive."

Robbers said it did not follow that good advice could only be given independently by non-aligned advisers.


"FMA is working with the profession to help ensure consumers have improved access to quality advice."

The research also revealed just 23 per cent of advisers are female.

Maxwell said the gender imbalance was unhealthy.

"It's not that women will only seek out female advisers, but they would probably like to have the option to do so."

But Robbers said she did not view gender as a barrier to women seeking financial advice.

"We are focusing on raising standards of professionalism across the industry, which will raise levels of trust and confidence in advisers, regardless of the gender of the advisers or the investors.

"Gender diversity is but one matter which clients may take into account in selecting an adviser."