13 Jul 2016

Simpler, more transparent financial advice

9:20 pm on 13 July 2016

Financial advice from robots and tougher rules for the humans are part of an overhaul of the financial advice sector.

generic tax return and finance calculator

Photo: 123rf

The changes to the eight-year-old laws mean advisors will have to be qualified, licensed, and disclose more information about their commissions.

Read the full report: Review of financial advisers act 2008

The changes aim to ensure consumers have better information about the person giving them advice on how to look after their money.

The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Paul Goldsmith said the new rules would also enable people to get so-called "robo-advice" on-line.

"Not everybody wants to sit down and have a half-hour conversation with a financial advisor," he said. "People of a younger generation want to be able to go onto an app' and put their details in and get some advice about what's best for them in terms of KiwiSaver or their personal savings."

He said the computer algorithms behind the robo-advice would be monitored by the Financial Markets Authority.

Advisors would have a legal obligation to put the interests of clients first and reveal any conflicts.

Consumer New Zealand researcher Jessica Wilson said she wanted to see a publicly accessible register, which listed the commissions advisors received when they made a sale.

"Knowing the incentives that they may be subject to is really important," she said. "You should now as a consumer be able to, once the changes are in place, find out what an advisor may be being paid, whether they are being paid to sell you a particular type of product."

"If you don't like what you're hearing, go elsewhere."

Ms Wilson would also like to see changes that ensured consumers could see details of successful complaints against an advisor.

But Susan Taylor from a dispute resolution service, Financial Services Complaints Limited, disagreed.

She said that sort of transparency could discourage people from co-operating with an investigation.

"By not naming and shaming, we're often able to negotiate settlements that are favourable to consumers," she said. "For the very reason the advisor would rather settle the complaint through our process knowing it's a confidential process.'

Ms Taylor said she supported the idea of allowing robo-advice, but it needed clearer consumer protections.

The government hopes to write a draft version of the legislation later this year.