Planner numbers settle after turbulent year

After a few rugged years for financial planners the sector has hit a period of relative stabilty with planner numbers holding steady with Jason Spits reporting that both aligned and non-aligned groups are reporting milder changes in their numbers than those seen in the past.

After the defeat of the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms in the Senate in September last year many voices in the planning sector stated that at least the industry could look forward to a period of stability and certainty in the years ahead.

Lengthy discussions around the new Life Insurance Framework aside, it appears the financial planning sector has settled into a period of stability with overall planner numbers in this year's Money Management Top 100 Survey closely reflecting those of last year.

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While planner numbers in the Top 100 had exceeded 16,000 by the many hundreds in 2012 and 2013 by 2014 they had dropped to around 15,000 in 2014 (15069) and have remained around that figure into 2015 (15274).

Part of this decrease up to 2014 was likely due to implementation of FOFA but across the past year planning groups have reported only mild increases and decreases (relative to past years) in their planner numbers with the highest increase at 56 planners (NAB Financial Planning) and the highest decrease at 59 planners (Commonwealth Financial Planning).

Of the aligned groups Westpac added 41 advisers, reflecting more stable growth compared to last year when it added 390 advisers who had migrated over from St George Financial Planning, which appears to be source once again after it shed 19 planners to fall to 55 advisers in 2015.

Non-aligned group Synchron added 44 advisers, the third year it has reported growth with a total addition of 137 advisers since 2013 while Dover Financial Advisers added 40 advisers and ClearView Financial Advice added 34 advisers, well up from the eight it added in last year's survey (Table 1).

Table 1: Increases in planner numbers

 Financial Planning Group

2015

2014

Increase

 NAB Financial Planning

530

474

56

 Synchron

357

313

44

 Westpac Financial Planning

511

470

41

 Dover Financial Advisers

191

151

40

 ClearView Financial Advice 

139

105

34

In fact non-aligned groups were well represented throughout those groups who added planners with half of the top 20 groups which recorded an increase in advisers residing in that sector while non-aligned groups only represented about a third among the 20 planning groups who reported a decrease in planner numbers.

Interestingly while NAB Financial Planning ranked as the number one group for increases it ranked as the number one group for planner departures in 2014 shedding 151 planners in that year's survey.

Given the past 12 months at Commonwealth Financial Planning it is not surprising that it shed the most planners — which at 59 (Table 2) was much less than the 135 it shed in 2014, however the drop is significant considering it reported 776 planners in 2013.

Table 2: Decreases in planner numbers

 Financial Planning Group

2015

2014

Increase

 Commonwealth Financial  Planning

582

641

-59

 Millennium3 Financial services

696

733

-37

 Crowe Horwath

73

109

-36

 Professional Investment Services 

440

475

-35

 State Super Financial Services  Australia

153

184

-31

Each year also brings a list of groups who have lost all their planners as their licences are cancelled and planners rolled into other businesses with the industry farewelling AMP licencee Genesys, which started life as two separate businesses - Associated Planners and Garrisons - before being merged in 2004 by then owner Challenger Financial Services.Millenium 3 also dropped planners for the second consecutive year with 37 leaving since the last Top 100 Survey, which recorded a decrease of 44 planners for a total loss of 84 in the past two years.

IOOF also quietly shelved My Adviser and Plan B Wealth Management telling Money Management that planners with My Adviser had moved to Consultum while planners with Plan B had moved to Shadforth. The latter group was acquired by IOOF in August 2014 which in turn brought Western Pacific, wholly owned by Shadforth, into the IOOF stable which now hold seven names, the most of any institutional owner in the market.

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